25th April, 2012
Patients in Lagos State public hospitals, Southwest Nigeria, have started groaning as doctors began fresh strike Tuesday to demand for full implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS.
The doctors embarked on an indefinite strike after they claimed that the Lagos State Government used policemen to harass and terrorise them at the venue of the disciplinary panel set up by government to try them for embarking on three days warning strike.
Activities in Lagos general hospitals this morning were partially paralysed as doctors were not available to attend to patients.
P.M.NEWS checks in some of the public hospitals revealed that several patients were stranded with no doctors to attend to them. The patients complained bitterly that the doctors’ strike had been too frequent.
At the Island Maternity, Lagos, activities were at the lowest ebb, as a handful of patients could be seen hanging around. There were no doctors to attend to them. Those who got cards waited endlessly for doctors to come and attend to them.
At the Lagos General Hospital, the situation was the same as activities were grounded.
At the General Hospital, Orile-Agege, doctors stayed away from work while patients waited endlessly. Some of the patients were bitter that they were not attended to despite the fact that they had waited for so long.
A patient, who preferred to be called Lizzy lamented the strike, saying it was appalling and appealed to government to meet the demands of the doctors, saying that she had been around for some hours and that there was no doctor to attend to her needs.
Another patient, Mr. Taofeek Olowo blamed the government for not meeting the demands of the doctors and called for immediate action to get the doctors back to work.
Also, Mr. Sunday Ajibade reminded the doctors that the health of the masses should be paramount to them, saying the entire health sector needed to be revamped to arrest the evident decay.
A patient, who preferred to be called Yusuf said: “ These doctors lack compassion. Why should they abandon the patients and embark on strike? There should be dialogue.”
At the Igando General Hospital, the patients lamented their fate as doctors refused to report for work.
Some explained to P.M.NEWS that they heard the news of the fresh strike through the radio while others said their relatives actually broke the information. Some did not even know that the doctors were on strike until this morning when the patients who heard began telling those who did not hear it earlier.
They explained that nobody had come to address them. Those who spoke said they did not know the next line of action they should take as they did not even know if the hospital had contingency plans to treat them.
According to Sheidu Jimoh, whose wife is on admission at the hospital, one of the medical doctors had told some of them to start thinking of other hospitals to go and get treatment, adding that the doctor said they had been instructed to down tools beginning from this morning.
“We don’t know who is the problem between the doctors and the government, but do they understand that in all these, it is the people who suffer? They should resolve this problem before Lagosians begin to lose confidence in the government,” Jimoh said.
Another patient, who gave her name as Iyabo, said she was already expecting to be discharged by the doctors. She, however, said if the hospital was totally shut, she would have to contact a nurse who would be taking care of her at home.
At the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, activities were grounded. The Teaching Hospital only had a few patients wandering about in despair, hoping to be attended to despite the strike.
Patients were seen in small clusters lamenting their plight while the usual hustle and bustle at wards had disappeared.
Many outpatient wards at LASUTH were deserted. The few people around were seen loitering and appealing to nurses on duty for assistance.
Some patients, who called at the hospital for treatment, were stranded while others already on admission were moved by relations to alternative private hospitals.
Few patients with critical conditions were being attended to by medical consultants in some wards while those confirmed to be relatively stable by the hospital management were being discharged.
A patient, who had to return home disappointed, Miss Kumbi Adesiyan, described the ongoing strike as catastrophic, considering the cost of patronising private hospitals.
A middle-aged woman, Mrs. Dayo Kudoro, who, on appointment brought her 14-year old boy, Sam Kudoro, to collect the results of the series of tests earlier conducted on him and for further consultation with the doctors was visibly devastated when there was no one to attend to them.
Her son who is suffering from chronic ulcer was too weak to walk.
According to her, “We have been coming here in the last one month or thereabouts and all the tests we were asked to go for had been conducted but we were shocked this morning when I took him to the laboratory for the x-ray result and we were told that the doctors’ strike is still ongoing.”
Another woman, Mrs. Ebere Orji, lamented that she brought her sick child for urgent medical attention at the hospital unaware that the doctors had begun another strike.
“Where do I go from here? My child was referred to see a consultant pediatrician or an ear, nose and throat specialist here. I am shocked to see that the hospital is grounded. This is terrible,” she cried.
Reacting to the doctors’ strike the Lagos State Government described it as malicious, ridiculous and unacceptable.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba said the strike was meant to discredit the government, saying the demands of doctors seeking teaching allowances for house officers undergoing training was fraudulent.
He stated that the government had done all within its power to ensure that the welfare of doctors was adequately catered for in the state, adding that the strike was needless.
“When they are demanding for same teaching allowance for house officers, isn’t it fraudulent for someone who is still undergoing training? What do we call that, learning allowance or teaching allowance?
Ibirogba described the latest strike as selfish and inhuman, saying that while Lagosians were beginning to have confidence in government-owned hospitals, some doctors who own private hospitals were hell bent on jeopardising the efforts so as to betray that confidence.
“It is a matter of fact Lagos State doctors are the highest paid in the country, as our doctors earn far more than their colleagues in other states. Lagos is also the only state that is implementing the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS in full.
“What our doctors earn now is the equivalent of their recommended pay on the CONMESS scheme. The House Officers, for example, earn N173, 927.33 monthly while consultants earn as much as N801, 985.09, excluding teaching allowance per month.
“The allegation of the doctors are baseless and the service disruptions that they cause only help to drive patients from government hospitals to private hospitals in which many of them are more interested,” Ibirogba claimed.
Announcing the strike yesterday, Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote, accused the government of using policemen, to terrorise and demoralise doctors.
“We are not animals or thugs that should be ridiculed or arrested anyhow. We embarked on a lawful strike. Government has pushed us to go on strike.
“We hereby declare that the Guild will be going on an indefinite strike till this is resolved. It is an insult to professionals like us. Some of our members would be facing disciplinary committees. We are just fighting for our rights and our demands are not out of place,” he stated.
—Kazeem Ugbodaga, Eromosele Ebhomele & Jamiu Yisa