Doctors' Strike: Lagos Calls NMA's Bluff

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The Lagos State Government says the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA cannot intimidate it in a bid to recall the 788 doctors it sacked on Monday.

The government reacting to threats by the NMA to shutdown health facilities in the state or nationwide if the sacked doctors were not recalled, said “we will not be distracted by the association’s decision.” Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, at a news conference on Tuesday in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, asked the NMA where they were when the issue was on, only to now come forward with threats against new doctors not to resume work.

He, however, said the government was willing to dialogue with the NMA on the issue if it should come forward, but that it would not subscribe to intimidation from the NMA.

Idris stated that the decision of the government to sack the doctors was not palatable, saying, “we made efforts to prevent this.

“The state government will not be distracted by the threat of NMA. But if the affected doctors approach us, the state government is willing to dialogue with them. There is always room for negotiation.”

He condemned the attitude of the sacked doctors for not having interest of the patients at heart; a situation which he said had culminated in the loss of many lives over the period the strike lasted.

Head of Service, HOS, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe at an interaction with newsmen said that under the civil service rule, a dismissed official could enter into negotiation with government.

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He added that the doctors were callous and cruel to have abandoned patients in the hospital to embark on strike, stating that “doctors cannot tell us how to manage our personnel cost.

“The consequence of the illegality of their action is what they are now reaping. They even refused to answer the query issued to them by the government.”

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba said: “government even appealed to them to go back to work. We are surprised that people trained to care for others are the ones killing them. This is not normal. We were surprised that they were still adamant.

“It is a very painful decision taken by the state government but we have to consider the healthcare of our citizens more than any other thing.”

Meanwhile, the striking doctors have gone to court to challenge the governor’s decision to sack them. Their counsel is Barrister Bamidele Aturu. The doctors, in the suit filed at the Industrial Court, Ikoyi, are seeking a declaration that the refusal of the defendant to completely implement the consolidated medical salary (CONMESS) scale in favour of the claimant association constitutes a violent breach of the agreement reached between the defendant and the claimant on the full implementation of CONMESS and is therefore unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void and constitutes unfair labour practice.

“We are concerned that the government has taken a panicky decision that cannot endure as the consequence is that the health care system in Lagos will be damaged irreparably if the decision is permitted to stand and it will usher in a dangerous era in industrial relations in the country,” Aturu said.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga