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Health-workers’ strike bites hard in Lagos

By Kenechukwu Ezeonyejiaku, Onyinye Iyeke and Michael Egbejule   |   14 January 2015   |   11:00 pm  

BRF• As Edo doctors issue ultimatum over unpaid salaries

AS the ongoing strike embarked by Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) rages on, patients in Lagos State have cried out to relevant authorities to wade into the demands of the body and save them from the hardship they are passing through.

   The strike, which was embarked on by the body late last year, suspended at one point and again embarked upon as a result of deadlock in negotiation between the body and government, has crippled various government hospitals in the state even though skeletal activities are ongoing in them.

  Meanwhile, The chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Edo State, Prof. Afekhide Omoti, has given the state government a two-day ultimatum within which to pay the July and August 2014 salaries of doctors under its employ or face strike.

   Omoti in a statement Tuesday in Benin city, said if the state government did not heed to the demands of the association, all doctors working in public hospitals in the state would withdraw their services to press home their demands, which he noted includes failure of the state government to implement the full consolidated Medical Salary CONMESS, poor infrastructure and lack of appropriate working tools with consequent poor health care delivery in the state as well as gross shortage of health manpower in Edo State.

   A visit to some of the hospitals showed lockdown in activities. Like the dryness that comes with harmattan which is presently giving the whole country a threat, the hospitals visited were epitome of the present weather.

   At around 9am on Tuesday, when our reporter visited Isolo General Hospital, patients with faith that they would be attended to eventually were seen sitting down and counting on their lucks to shine. Others were seen walking around hopelessly in and around the hospitals with nobody giving them any attention.

   According to a patient seen at the hospital, Idowu, he disclosed that he had come to the hospital on Monday, was not attended to but was promised by a doctor in the hospital to come back the next day for his consultation.

   But to his uttermost bewilderment shown in his expression while speaking, he said that the way he had been treated since he came showed no sign that he would be attended to.

   “I came this morning and went to submit my card at the usual place,” he said, “the woman there directed me to another place that I would submit it. When I got there, the person there told me that I shouldn’t submit it there. I went back to the initial person and reported to her what I was told; her reply to me was ‘what do you want me now to do?’”

   In another development, a lady whose father was attended to on Monday at the same Isolo General hospital on an emergency condition, Mary, narrated how her father was defrauded by another elderly man whom her father entrusted with his money to help him buy drugs prescribed for him because he was weak to walk to the clinic.

   She said: “My dad has this issue of fast breathing. He had been treated of the issue not quite long ago but that Monday, it resurfaced again and there was nobody at home to take him to the hospital. He managed and went there alone and the hospital personnel attended to him even though they are on strike.

   “After he had finished seeing a doctor and drugs prescribed for him, he went to where the drugs were calculated which amounted to N25, 000. But because he was weak to walk to the clinic, he pleaded with a man around him there to help him buy the drugs. My dad waited for this man t come back to no avail and it just dawned on him that the man had absconded with the money he gave him.”

   However laying part of the blame for what happened to her father to the ongoing strike by health-workers, Mary, full of fury called on relevant authorities to liaise and end the industrial action for the benefit of the common man.      

   Meanwhile, a public relation personnel in the hospital who would not want her identity disclosed because she is not authorized to speak stated that the hospital is working but in skeletal bases.

   She disclosed that they are doing so because of the human feelings they have and the fact that they have sworn to save lives, most especially that of the ordinary people who cannot afford private hospitals or overseas’ treatments.

   She however revealed that they are always on a backlash from the body as a result of their flouting of their directive stating that on Monday, 12, the taskforce of the body came to the hospital and chased them out from their offices.

   Similarly, in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, the story is also the same as the hospital, which used to be a beehive of activities was a ghost town.

   Staffs of the hospital were seen idle and discussing. Though there were little activities going on there, important departments were shut down.

   A family whose child has a broken bone told our reporter that they were occasionally attended to because their case was an emergency. 

   Seen in front of the emergency section of the hospital with a doctor explaining to them the outcome of the x-ray carried out on the child, an uncle to the child who gave his name as Christian said that it was because of the condition of the child that they were even listened to but noted that they were told that clinic department will not be opened to attend to them.

   At Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, the story also remained the same the hospital was scanty and had a handful of people who come and go.

   However, a staff of the hospital that also sought for anonymity said that part of the hospital is very functional and doctors were working. She disclosed that why he was not working was because his department was not operating at the time. 

   But Patience Okoro, a patient at the Outpatient unit of the hospital said that they have refused to attend to her and carryout a surgery, which she was supposed to undergo there. She expressed her frustration and wished that things would return to normal. 

   Another patient with a little son of about seven who has an eye issue known as Exophthalmos (a condition of one bulging abnormal eye) stated that she had been coming to the hospital to get surgery for her son but gets turned down each of those times.

   She stated that she was lucky on Monday as they were attended to, stating that the emergency department of the hospital is working because there are doctors available to handle the emergencies.

     He lamented the dearth of medical infrastructure in the state and other the deplorable state of existing state owned hospitals and other state health facilities and gross shortage of health manpower in Edo State has resulted in the” work overload for the few available unmotivated hands rendering services in extremely difficult working conditions.”

   He said, “Non-payment of the withheld July and 2014 salaries due to participation of Edo State doctors in the NMA national strike between 1st July and 25th August, 2014, despite several appeals and the fact that there was a no victimization. Agreements with the federal government and other states in Nigeria and the FCT apart from Lagos have paid the salaries. 

  “We also note that members of other professional unions including the Academics Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) were paid their salaries inspite of the fact that they embarked on a six-months nationwide strike.”

   He added that failure of the Edo State government to address the issues within the stipulated timeframe, members of the Edo NMA will embark on a strike action and stop all medical services from 8am Monday 2nd, February 2015, stressing that Edo State government should as a matter of urgency do all within its capacity to resolve these issues and avert this avoidable crisis in the health sector in Edo State.



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