4th June, 2012
By now we expect normalcy to return to public hospitals in Lagos State following last Thursday’s recall of sacked doctors.
The doctors went on strike in May over the refusal of the Lagos State government to pay them the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS. The government responded by sacking 788 doctors. And the sacked doctors went to the Industrial Court to challenge their sack.
While the crisis lasted, it took a huge toll on patients seeking treatment in Lagos public hospitals, with some dying as a result of absence of doctors to attend to them.
We are delighted that the protracted crisis has been eventually resolved following the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians.
Interestingly, the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, has asked the doctors to resume work immediately. The call became necessary as the recalled doctors were foot-dragging and giving some conditions before they could resume.
One of the conditions is that their recall must be backed by reinstatement letters to replace the sack letters earlier issued to them. Though the demand is genuine, we believe the hardline posture would have undermined the sympathy a section of the public had for them in the thick of the crisis and would have served no one any good.
In a crisis of that nature, a little give and take on the part of the parties involved could go a long way in resolving it. That was exactly the point we made in our editorial of 9 May, 2012 when the crisis had just started. In that editorial, we appealed to the Lagos State government and the striking doctors to sheathe their swords and reach a compromise in order to resolve the trade dispute. But this was ignored until about three weeks later when the sacked doctors were recalled.
We expect that never again should public hospitals be shut on account of a trade dispute or for any reason. The lesson learnt from this sad episode is that parties in a trade dispute should exhaust all avenues for dialogue before settling for what could be described as the devil’s alternative that gets all parties’ fingers burnt in the process.