Threatens to escalate on-going strike after 7 days
By Steve Oko
The Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, has told Abia State Government that any doctor being owed wages is unhappy and constitutes serious security risk to his patients.
NMA Chairman Abia State chapter, Dr Chimezie Okwuonu, who stated this during a press conference Tuesday in Umuahia, regretted that three weeks after doctors downed tools in compliance with the directive of their national body following backlog of salary arrears owed some of them, the State Government was yet to meet their demands.
Doctors in the state proceeded on “every Tuesday strike action” to register their grievances over 25 and 11 months of salary arrears owed doctors in the Abia State University Teaching Hospital Aba, ABSUTH; and the state Hospital Management Board, respectively.
The NMA Chairman who bemoaned the plights of the affected doctors urged the state Government to quickly do the needful or the strike action would be escalated.
“May we use this opportunity to call on the State Government to speedily respond to the request of offsetting the perennial salary areas of the Medical Doctors in Abia State specifically in ABSUTH and HMB; and set the stage for robust health care delivery which the state was once known for.
“If this is done, our members will be motivated again to continue service delivery in their different stations without interruption of services.
“The general public is hereby put on notice of this our modest way of registering our displeasure at this time and implore the Government of the day to do the needful. After the 4th week, there is likelihood of escalation of this strike to magnitude of affecting health services adversely in Abia State. A stitch in time saves nine.”
He noted, however, that Government had paid four months instead of six months bulk payment it had earlier agreed to pay for doctors in ABSUTH, but nothing had been done for those in HMB.
Okwuonu said Government was also not forthcoming on payment of arrears of two months every month till the backlog was cleared, explaining that up till July 11, nothing has been paid to the affected doctors for the month of June.
The NMA boss decried the condition of health sector in the state and pleaded with the state Government to save the sector from total collapse.
“Service delivery, residency training, teaching of Medical Students and research have been adversely affected by epileptic and sub-optimal services in the teaching hospital.
” The 18 General and cottage hospitals have been grossly under performing due to poor service delivery occasioned by low morale among our colleagues in the Hospital management board. All these have adversely impacted on our health indices as a state.
“With our General hospitals not functional and the teaching hospital below its usual capacity to deliver services, the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia becomes overstretched and our colleagues in those areas become over burdened with work and burn out usually set in.
“In addition, our members suffer untold hardships as a good number of us have no money to pay rent, school fees , settle family issues, not to talk of feeding our parents who invested so much in training us as Doctors.
“A Doctor who is owed such humongous amount of money is unhappy, cannot concentrate to take good care of another person’s health and is a security risk if not paid on time.”