Patients’ suffering contiunes as doctors, govt’s fight lingers

Doctors' Strike
Doctors’ Strike

Scenes at various public hospitals are always pathetic each time the doctors embark on strike to drive home one point or the other, helpless patients and their relations are made to always bear the brunt of the physicians’ anger to square it up with the authority for whatever disagreements that may have brought them to logger heads. Adesoji Oyinlolain Lagos, examines the situation.

While helpless patients on admission are left unattended, prospecting patients are either denied entry into the hospital premises or left to wonder around, thereby compounding their already deteriorating health, leading in some cases to unnecessary death.

Also, several theatre bound patients who were on queue for one major operation or another, critical to their survival, were left to bemoan their fate while those whose family could afford the bill took their relations to private hospitals, yet, others continued to wait in agony for the doctors to call-off their strike..

Similarly, out patients who have a routine to follow up on earlier treatments while on admission are denied the opportunity to meet up with appointments to see consultants handling their cases, leading most times to their sickness to relapse.

In some more pathetic cases, some patients whose family have abandoned in the hospitals are seen taking shelter under trees and corridors of the various hospitals without adequate medical care.

These situations as explained above always happen each time medical doctors in public hospitals comply with the directives of its national body, the Nigerian Medical Association, to embark on strike.

The on-going strike by doctors, under the aegis of the NMA, is to protest poor working conditions, inadequate funding, and poor infrastructure in the nation’s health sector.

Consequently, patients were not treated by medical doctors while those on admission were being taken to private hospitals by their relatives who can accommodate the charges by private hospitals.

At least six patients have reportedly died at the Rivers State-owned Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMH), Port Harcourt, due to the ongoing nationwide warning strike by medical doctors, over the Federal Government’s failure to address the association’s demands.

Also, medical doctors who belong to the various affiliates of the NMA were not at their duty posts during a visit by journalists to the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex last week.

It was observed by journalists in one of the hospital in Ile –Ife, Osun State that only nurses, pharmacists and other health workers were attending to the patients.

However, few doctors were seen attending to patients at the Virology Research Clinic where people living with HIV/AIDS receive their anti-retroviral drugs.

Also, Doctors in public health institutions in Benin, Edo State, also shunned work on Wednesday, so as doctors in major tertiary hospitals in Lagos State.

Journalists who visited the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba; the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja; and the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, observed that resident doctors, consultants and even house officers did not come to work.

As a result, relatives and patients were seen leaving LUTH in frustration as there were no doctors to attend to them.

Patients, who were rushed to the Accident and Emergency Unit of the hospitals, were advised to seek alternative treatment in private hospitals.

At the National Hospital, Abuja, many patients were stranded and were grumbling because there were no doctors to attend to them.

Also, a check at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebutte-Metta, Lagos, revealed that patients were leaving the hospital after a very long wait for the doctors, most of them wearing long faces, looking helpless and worried.

A relative of a patient who was admitted to undergo surgery to remove the lump in one of her breast, lamented her plight to Peoples Daily. According to her, the lump on her sister’s breast has become so soft that it can burst at anytime, except the whole breast is removed immediately.

Continuing, she said the family has been running helter skelter to look for additional funds so that the operation can be done in any of the private hospitals that has the facilities to carry out the operation. However, she doubts if the family will be able to cope with the amount the private hospitals are asking for.

While it is impractically impossible to collate the actual figures of those who had died as a result of the strike, those in authority always frown at the idea of doctors going on strike, thereby abandoning their posts.

It is not surprising therefore to see the concerned members of the Federal House of Representatives, putting their heads together over the on-going strike, and appealing to both the striking workers and the Federal Government to find a truce to the current strike.

As widely reported, the House of Representatives Committee on Health has been mandated to wade into the industrial crisis pitching the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) against the Federal Ministry of Health.

The committee, which has a week to accomplish its task and report back to the House, is expected to find amicable ways of resolving the impasse.

The House, acting on a motion on ‘urgent need to resolve the crisis in the health sector’ moved by the Minority Whip, Hon. Samson Osagie (APC, Edo), urged the NMA and its members to call off the strike they embarked upon on Tuesday.

The lawmakers also appealed to the federal government “to do everything possible as a matter of utmost urgency to have the crisis resolved in the interest of the citizens of this country.

“From the NMA perspective, a number of issues, including the appointment of surgeon-general for the federation, payment of hazard allowances to doctors, retirement age of doctors, expansion of the NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme) to cover a wider spectrum of the society among others are also some of the issues that the National Assembly (has) passed resolutions on,” he noted.

He expressed worry that the citizens stand a very high risk during emergencies, if medical services are not made available, given the very critical state of insecurity in Nigeria.

Also, one of such incident of doctors going on strike brought the body in collusion with the Lagos State government. The strike by doctors recently resulted in the sack by the Lagos State Government of some Hundreds of doctors who were dismissed after embarking on what the government claimed was an illegal strike.

The doctors, according to Lagos State government, were dismissed for refusing to answer queries about why they had been absent from work without leave, and for breaking the rules guiding industrial action in the state’s public service.

More than 1,000 doctors went on strike on 16 April, 2011, saying that the state government had failed to implement a pay increase promised by Governor Babatunde Fashola at the end of 2010.

During the strike the city’s hospitals were virtually empty and patients who could not afford to access private treatment were expected to flood such hospitals in droves.

This, and the fact that the striking doctors have been replaced by less experienced medics, according to findings, is of great concern to Lagos in particular and Nigeria in general.

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