From Uche Nnorom, Makurdi
Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the Association of Resident Doctors, ARD Benue State Teaching Hospital, BSUTH has frowned at the action of the hospital management in issuing letters of sack to over 30 doctors.
In a press statement by Dr Amina Japheth Onyewuchi and Dr Sesugh Matthew Iorfa President, ARD BSUTH, and PRO, ARD BSUTH respectively and made available to our correspondent, the association also, wondered why the hospital upheld others in a haphazard and subjective manner that does not just follow the laws regulating the service of resident doctors in Nigeria, noting that such action is a disservice to the suffering people of Benue State.
The ARD explained that the training of resident doctors in Nigeria is regulated by the 2017 Medical Residency Training Act, MRTA which is very explicit of how a doctor should enter and leave residency training, adding that the Act allows resident doctors to train and pass all exams over an eight and half to nine year period as against the six(6)years that the management of Benue State University Teaching Hospital wants to impose on resident doctors here.
“The Act also empowers the National Postgraduate Medical College, NPMCN as the only body who can recommend resident doctors for exit from the residency program on the grounds of duration. The NPMCN sends the names of resident doctors due to exit the training every six(6) months to training institutions. Their last of such letters was on the 10th of March, 2020 and none of the residents in Benue State University Teaching Hospital was listed for exit. Where then is the management getting the powers to sack resident doctors?
“It is however unfortunate that rather than put these measures in place like in other places, the management of Benue State University Teaching Hospital, is rather sacking medical doctors. Not just doctors but some of her more experienced hands.
“If there was any doubt, the management of BSUTH should borrow a leaf from her sister health institution, Federal Medical Centre Makurdi where the 2017 MRTA has been adopted is being used. No resident doctor who has spent less than eight years has been sacked. Of course, the NPMCN will not recommend such residents for exit.
“Many of the doctors being told their time has expired have not been sent by the management for mandatory postings, they are to undergo before completing their programs. This, the management blames on the gross shortage of doctors in this hospital. Our doctors have their training stagnated (some for over 3 years) by the management, only to be issued sack letters that their time is done, when it was the fault of the management who refused to release them for those postings.
“Also, management have refused to take into account the periods when some departments did not have/ lost accreditation and resident doctors were not able to go for exams. All the lost time, the management has factored into their purported six year residency program.
“ Additionally, the sponsorship of resident doctors for update courses and exams has been ignored by the management of BSUTH, leaving resident doctors to their fate. The last time a resident doctor was given full sponsorship in this hospital was 5 years ago.
“We have approached the management severally over this issue to no avail. We made a presentation to the hospital board, making an argument for the adoption and full implementation of the 2017 MRTA as obtainable everywhere else in Nigeria but fell on deaf ears.
“We have co-opted the State Chapter of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), BSUTH to intervene in the issue to avert crisis, especially at these times, however their effort is yet to yield fruit.
We sought the attention of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Tony Ijohor who had mediated between the association and the state government in other issues. We are yet to see the effect of his intervention.
“We have sought unsuccessfully to get the attention of the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Dr Samuel Ortom who, we believe, has the best interest of the health sector and indeed doctors at heart.
“Our parent body, the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has written to the Chief Medical Director, Professor Terrumun Swende, to reconsider their stand as it is not in accordance with the existing laws regulating the residency program in Nigeria, but there was no response.
“This issue has dragged on for a long time, and we have written several letters to this effect and have also given ultimatum in the past concerning this matter. We are now left with no choice than to consider downing tools, however as it is our custom, we have the Benue people at heart.
Responding through the Public Relations Officer, BSUTH Mr. Cephas Hough, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital Dr. Terrumun Swende pointed out that only three(3) resident doctors were terminated upon service of month notice in compliance with directives of the Management Board of the hospital.
He said the residency is a time bound training program, positing that the Residency Training Policy of the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, requires resident doctors to pass all prescribed examinations within a maximum period of 6 years.
“Consequently, all resident doctors whose appointments with the hospital have been terminated have exceeded the prescribed period for the program.
“As such, Management had no option than to terminate their appointments in accordance with the Residency Training Policy approved by the Board.
“It is important to clarify here that, as at now the Medical Residency Training Act 2017, which the Association made reference to, in their press statement is yet to be domesticated by the Benue State University Teaching Hospital. The hospital is therefore constrained to implement the contents of the said Act until it is approved by the Board”, the statement read.