Sacked Doctors Head To Court


The sacked doctors in public hospitals in Lagos State will tomorrow head to the Industrial Court, Ikoyi to challenge their dismissal by the Lagos State Government.

At least 788 doctors were sacked by the state government on Monday for embarking on strike to press home their demand for full implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS by the government.

After sacking the doctors, the state government announced the recruitment of 373 new ones, saying that their appointment took immediate effect.

But the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, has warned the newly recruited doctors not to resume work, saying that it might be forced to shut down all health facilities in Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria.

Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote said the doctors had instituted a court case against the government.

In the sack letters issued to the doctors and signed by the Chief Medical Director, CMD, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Prof. David Oke, the doctors were sacked as the Personnel Management Board, PMB, a disciplinary organ found them guilty of misconduct in absenting themselves from duty when they embarked on a three-day warning strike.

The PMB also established against the doctors, a case of insurbordination for failure to respond to lawful query issued to them, saying that “The committee therefore recommend your dismissal from service in accordance with the provisions of the civil service rule No 04502, 04507 and 04508. The board has therefore approved your dismissal.”

Also, a statement from the Office of the Head of Service of Lagos State said the doctors were sacked for refusing to answer queries issued to them.

According to the statement, 316 doctors sacked were working with LASUTH, while the remaining 472 were from other hospitals in the state, adding that 373 newly employed doctors would be immediately deployed in the public hospitals while recruitment continued.

On what made the strike illegal, the statement noted, among other things, that the doctors only gave the state government 24 hours notice “as against the time-tested and statute-bound processes and procedures for declaration of industrial disputes.”

After meeting with the sacked doctors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba, Lagos, NMA Chairman, Doctor Edamisan Temiye described the sack of the doctors as a huge joke, saying the government would surely revert to status quo, saying that the association would engage the state government in the next 24 hours as the reaction of the state government and outcome of the meeting would determine the next line of action.

“The Lagos State Government is behaving like a 17th century emperor; they should come back to where we are. They should also have it at the back of their minds that the most popular government has found itself in a terrible situation when it goes against the will of the people.”

According to him, government’s action was too “draconian, undemocratic and the most uncivilised kind of government. They feel they are so big and can turn us to slaves as they have done in some other sectors. We must take the lead and stop them now, whatever it takes.”

However, Medical Guild Chairman, Odusote said the guild had formally handed over the matter to the NMA to handle, saying that the government had been deceiving the public on this matter ever since. Odusote passed a vote of no confidence on the state House of Assembly, which he said, took sides with government while trying to resolve the issue at the weekend.

Meanwhile, tempers rose yesterday at the floor of the Lagos State House of Assembly after the Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, informed his colleagues that he heard the striking doctors in the state, whose issues the members were sorting out at the particular time, had been sacked by the State Government.

Though Ikuforiji said he had not confirmed from the executive arm if the doctors had been disengaged from the workforce of the government and the reason the State Governor, Babatunde Fashola took the decision, the news immediately polarised the House.

While some of the members felt slighted by the executive arm in taking the decision, the majority of the members felt the doctors had become gods in the state and that their excesses needed to be curbed.

The argument degenerated with one of the lawmakers, Bayo Oshinowo, taking a swipe at his colleagues and accusing them of trying to support the executive arm of the government in rubbishing the House and its efforts to mediate in the crisis.

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His grouse was that the executive arm did not allow the lawmakers to effectively resolve the issue with the doctors before issuing them sack letters.

He wanted his colleagues to demand for explanation from the governor or possibly reprimand the executive for taking the action without recourse to the House and thereafter nullify the sack of the doctors pending the outcome of the resolution by the lawmakers.

Oshinowo told his colleagues that anything short of that would lead to regrets in the future as they would never be respected by the executive arm.

Most of the other lawmakers did not support his line of argument as according to them, the executive arm must have taken so many things into consideration before embarking on the action.

Deputy Speaker of the House, Taiwo Kolawole, who headed the Committee set up to mediate in the crisis, told his colleagues that it took them several hours to pacify the doctors at the weekend even though according to him, most of their demands were not enough to embark on strike.

He said the doctors failed to recognise that they were employees of the State Government and were not to dictate the terms and conditions of work to their employer.

He told his colleagues that throughout the period the deliberation lasted between the Committee, the doctors and the government delegation, the doctors exuded disrespect in their speech and behaviour.

He said the Committee was able to secure a promise from the State Government that once the doctors agreed to resume work, they would not be reprimanded, punished or even victimised for going on strike and that the government side agreed.

“This was part of the conditions given by the doctors, but after the executive agreed, the doctors refused to give us a promise that they would return to work,” Kolawole said.

He said the Committee tried to no avail to convince the doctors to sign a tripatite agreement so that they could go back to work even though most of their demands were sorted out.

He said the guild demanded that fresh doctors just employed should be moved from Grade Level 15 step one to 15 step four, adding that the Committee could not convince the doctors that it is the employer who determines how much to pay an entrant into the workforce and that there are procedures to follow on the issue.

The Speaker, who supported Kolawole’s report, said the doctors had the opportunity to get it right but failed to utilise it. According to him, the House decided to wade in after the protest by Lagosians on Friday, but that the attitude of the doctors to the House was appalling.

A medical doctor and Chief Whip of the House, Razak Balogun, said though the decision of the State Government may be seen as rash, it was necessary to put the doctors where they belonged, wondering if they were more powerful than their employers which had been pampering them.

According to Balogun, since two years ago when the crisis started, the doctors had worked for only one year and six months, yet had been paid “for the other six months they spent in their private hospitals.” Balogun said though the state government cannot sack all the doctors since it was not easy to recruit people in the profession, such drastic action since they wanted to become a clog in the wheel of progress, was necessary.

He urged residents of the state not to panic over the situation as the state government had alternatives to keep the hospitals running.

Oshinowo later stormed out of the chamber after a shouting match that was brought under control by the Speaker.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga & Eromosele Ebhomele

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