Psychiatrists, others battle MD over tenure


Dr. Rahman Lawal

*Workers at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba begin indefinite strike as patients groan 
Crisis rocking the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital (FNPHY), Yaba, Lagos, on Tuesday took a new twist as senior doctors in the hospital embark on indefinite strike.

The strike action is a protest against the Medical Director, Dr. Rahman Lawal’s continuous stay in office after his four-year tenure expired on August 21, 2015.

By the strike action, which took effect early Tuesday, the doctors have joined other health workers, made up of nurses, lab scientists, social workers, psychiatrists, physiotherapists and so on that had downed tools since last two weeks over the same matter.

The health workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Workers Union in the hospital, also came to the hospital premises last week to stage a protest match, chanting, “Lawal must go”.

Reacting to the development, the Medical Director described the strike action as arbitrary and illegal.
Lawal told The Guardian that he was not aware of the strike action, adding that the doctors had violated the standing rules and due process of the Civil Service.

The strike, which completely brought care services to a halt yesterday, left the patients abandoned to their fate even as Resident Doctors were prevented from attending to mentally ill patients.

The Guardian gathered that Lawal had in the last one year been in a protracted battle with his workers over issues bothering on welfare, and now continuous stay in office beyond four years. The workers recently concluded a 52-day strike action over issues that were not unconnected with welfare, promotion and state of facilities in the hospital.

At an August 28 meeting with the doctors and other unions, the MD had shown a letter credited to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) approving his stay in office in acting capacity, but his subordinates kicked against the letter, asking questions about its authenticity.

The consultants last week embarked on a three-day warning strike, following a seven-day ultimatum to the MD to vacate office, or they proceed on an indefinite strike. Apparently in defiance to their order, the doctors declared indefinite strike on Tuesday.

Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Dapo Adegbaju, told The Guardian that as far as they were concerned, “the hospital has no MD, and Lawal is occupying the office illegally.”

According to Adegbaju, “The bone of contention is that the Medical Director’s tenure has expired since August 21, 2015 and he should have handed over to someone in acting capacity pending the conduct of an interview and a substantive MD is appointed.”

On the letter from the FMoH, Adegbaju said that his colleagues found it rather odd that the letter was sent to him personally and not via the normal route of passing through the Director of Administration.
“We felt having attained the age of 60 on January 3, as stipulated by the law and the Public Service rules and having completed his term on August 21, by the virtue of a circular tagged: ‘The Oransanye report’ that gives people on tenure appointment to complete their term, he (Lawal) should have handed over on August 21. That is the normal thing by the Civil Service rule and once that is done, everybody will be back to work,” he said.

It was gathered that Lawal had in 2011 came into office in similar circumstance, after his successor refused to vacate the seat.
In a telephone chat, Lawal said that the strike was illegal, because the consultant doctors just failed to report to duty and didn’t communicate their action to him as their MD.

Lawal said: “Letter of their seven-day ultimatum was not directed at me. As consultants, they should know by now that the service work by rules and regulations. I have told them severally, if they have no confidence in me that I cannot solve their problems, let them write to the ministry of health,” Lawal said.

The public Relations Officer of the JOHESU, Daniel Ellu added that “as at Friday 21st of August 2015 the tenure of the Chief Medical Director, who is the head of the hospital came to an end and till now, nobody is acting on his behalf. No acting medical director and no letter from the ministry explaining what is going on”.
“We need the ministry to tell us what is going on because we are like sheep without shepherd right now. So, we need a head,” he said.

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