By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
PATIENTS seeking attention in public medical facilities in Abuja,have embraced private health centres, following the ongoing industrial action by medical doctors in the country under the aegis of National Association of Resident Doctors,NARD.
Majority of the patients who were already on admission in most of the public health facilities before the strike broke out have been moved out to private facilities by their families.
With the strike still on,the usual busy movements of people in and out of public hospitals,corridors, laboratories, medical records department, waiting rooms, cash pay points and other units were not observed in some public hospitals visited by Vanguard, Monday in Abuja.
At the National Hospital Abuja,most patients that came for attention turned back as consultants attending to patients limited the number they could attend to a day to only 20 each. Even with the number limited to 20,some patients that came as early as 8am were still waiting in the hospital to see consultants as at 3:45pm.
Consultants approached to speak on the strike and its attendant consequences on both the hospitals and its patients refused to comment, directing Vanguard to the spokesperson of the hospital, Dr Tayo Haastrup, who was said to be on annual leave.
But some patients seen at the hospitals,groaned over the effects of the strike on them, begging authorities to intervene to save them.
A housewife, Mrs Christiana Ella, a native of Kogi State residing at Suleja, Niger State, told Vanguard that she came to the hospital as early as 8am to be attended to on time but regretted that as at 2:30pm when she was talking with Vanguard,she was yet to see a consultant, wondering if she would ever succeed in her mission before returning home.
Asked why she chosed public hospital as against private ones given the effects of the strike,Ella,who said she was a staff of a federal ministry in Abuja, explained that her enrollment in the National Health Insurance Scheme,NHIS,was the reason.
“I’m here because I’m an enrollee in the NHIS,else I would have gone to a private medical facility to seek attention to my problem,”she said.
Another patient, Patrick Ibiang,who identified himself as a retired federal civil servant, explained that he came to the hospital as early as 10:15 am but had not been seen by any consultant even as he said they limited the number of patients to be seen by any consultant to just 20 per day.
“I came here as early as 10:15 am, from Kubwa where I live but unfortunately,I have not been attended to by any doctor at this time (3:10pm). This is sad. Assuming I am in a very critical situation,do you think I would have still been alive at this time they are yet to attend to me? He asked.
The octogenarian, however, heaped the blame on the plight of patients on the government which he alleged, has not been providing enabling environment to doctors to perform optimally.
“It is good that you are here from the press,help propagate what I’m saying so that the government can sit up because we can’t continue like this”,he said.
Nurses and other staff of the hospital were seen in most of the wards visited providing their own services as required.
Vanguard’s attempt to take photographs of the environment, patients and some wards visited,were denied by a staff who took him round some wards to see things for himself.
The situation was not different at the Maitama General Hospital,Abuja,as most wards were seen empty indicating patients may have been moved out by their families.
Most of the outpatients who came for medical attention were seen leaving almost immediately.
A patient,John Okon,who spoke to Vanguard expressed frustration at what patients in the hospital were going through in their efforts at getting attention.
“You are asking me when you are here seeing things for yourself. Is this how hospitals should be run? I have been here for over four hours with little or no hope of being attended to. This is very unfortunate. Government should please see to the request or demands of the protesting resident doctors so that patients can be attended to.
“Some people who were here with us earlier left because they can’t bear the situation we are going through. Some have money to approach private hospitals but we are not all the same, that is one of the reasons some of us are still here,”he said.
He, however,admitted that “nurses here are wonderful people”, adding that,” the consultants are also trying for the patients.”
Recall that the National Association of Resident Doctors,NARD, had embarked on a nationwide strike over government’s failure to honour the Memorandum of Action, signed in the first quarter of the year, being 10th of April, 2021.
“We are embarking on a total and indefinite strike on August 2, 2021. You can recall we had a memorandum of action on March 31, 2021, and had an addendum to it on April 9, and since then, we still have had irregularities in the payment of salaries to the house officers.
“We had issues with them being non-regular payment and as part of the memorandum of action, it was said that they should be captured back into the IPPS platform,”a communique by the Union had stated.