By Chioma Obinna
THE Medical Guild, yesterday, urged the Lagos State government to withdraw a circular which removed doctors, undertaking housemanship and the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, in the state, from the Scheme of Service.
The Medical Guild, which is a body of medical doctors under the employment of Lagos State Government, also expressed concern on the rising cases of COVID-19 in the state, demanding that efforts to stem third wave of the pandemic is intensified and sustained.
Briefing journalists in Lagos, the Chairman of Medical Guild, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo urged the state government that withdrawal of the circular will pave the way for proper consultation as it is yet to be implemented at the Federal or state levels nationwide.
The Lagos State had in a circular made available to Vanguard and entitled: ‘Internship Programme in Public/ Civil Service with reference number CIR/HOS/21/Vol.1/052 from the office of the Head of Service in Lagos State stated that medical doctors undertaking housemanship and NYSC would be removed from the Scheme of Service following a National Council of Establishment Decision.
He said the circular was also at variance with the theme agenda of the Lagos Stat Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
“This circular has further heightened the uncertainty among young doctors and we have received countless complaints from them on this issue,” he said.
He noted that the decision would further worsen the brain drain and manpower challenge confronting the state and country, adding that it was becoming difficult to attract medical graduates to residency training.
“At this point, we are combating the third wave of COVID-19, emerging medical challenges, monkeypox, cholera, communicable and non-communicable disease in the state. All policies should be to attract and encourage, particularly our young doctors,” he said.
According to Sodipo it has become necessary to seek the withdrawal of the circular to forestall the uncertainty that the circular was creating among young doctors who mostly constitute those undergoing housemanship and the NYSC.
On the implication of the circular, he said, “These House officers and NYSC doctors play critical role as first contact doctors in health facilities including teaching hospitals, the general hospitals and the primary health care centres (PHCs).
“By implication, this circular has created a level of uncertainty for young doctors. All data in the country point to the fact that younger doctors not less than five years are leaving the state and leaving the country in droves because of uncertainty about their career progression.
“This circular has further heightened that anxiety among them. We have received countless number of calls on this issue.”
Sodipo reasoned that because these group of young doctor have been removed from the scheme of service, if there were to be improvement in terms of service, “they would obviously not be carried along; it would not be implemented for them and that would also cause a problem.”
“You need younger colleagues to continue the trend that has already been created. Where you have a situation where colleagues are concerned to carry out the very basic minimum which is housemanship, we are going to have another situation where people leave the country to carry out housemanship in other parts of the world and this will further cause challenges with manpower issues in the state.”
He added that it was becoming more difficult to attract people that want to carry out programmes of residency training because when advertisement are made most people believe that there is no career pathway for them. “And that is why when this circular was released at the federal level, the NMA at the national level met with the Head of Service and the understanding was that this circular was not going to be implemented. “It came as a shock to us when we saw it in Lagos State. “
Sodipo further urged the Lagos State Government to keep its commitment that the cited circular would not affect the wages of medical doctors working as House Officers and the NYSC doctors in Lagos.
“This commitment was made by top government officials of the Lagos State Government including the commissioners of health and Establishments, Training and Pensions.”
He further urged the government to resolve the long-standing issue of salary disparity as approved by Sanwo-Olu in September 2020 as it would help to stem the tide of attrition among doctors in the state and provide skilled manpower for the expanding health infrastructure in the state.