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SPECIAL REPORT… Patients endure pains, fears as doctors’ strike lingers

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Accompanied by his walking stick, he walked toward the exit gate of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) “disappointed”.

The white-haired man, who gave his name as Philip had come an hour earlier after he was referred to LASUTH from the Alimosho General Hospital in Igando area of the state to see a doctor for an ailment he would not disclose to this reporter.

“My president (referring to Muhammadu Buhari’s medical trip in the UK) is somewhere enjoying hospital facility but look at me now!” he said in a frail voice, adding that “First of all, I have to obtain a card to see a doctor and be referred to a specialist, but I can’t see a doctor.”

Mr Philip stated that he will visit the hospital again upon resumption of the striking doctors if he could still make it.
“Everything is in the hands of God, if God says I will live through, fine, let the will of God be done,” the aged man said.

 

Also, Mrs Olagunju Simbiat, who came to LASUTH from Agege concerning her son’s health said “they (nurses) said I should listen to the news and come the following Wednesday after the strike has been called off.”

According to Tony Oladosumu, a nurse at the Emergency Unit of LASUTH, everybody in the emergency unit as of Wednesday was working.

“I cannot say for other sections, I have been working since yesterday,” he said.
In the same facility, Mr Josephine Ignatus found sited under a canopy outside the eye section unit feared that her 11-month-old baby’s condition might deteriorate if not attended to urgently.

Mrs Ignatus explained that her son was referred from the General hospital in Abule-Egba for an eye scan.

Other patients seen exiting the hospital spoken to by this reporter said that they were asked to come back after the strike, one of them, Mrs Bolanle Adebayo who implored the government to listen to the demands of the striking doctors said she had to leave with her son because there were no doctors to attend to her after waiting for about two hours.

 

At the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), only one doctor was working as of Wednesday when this reporter visited.

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An insider at the Children’s Emergency department who preferred anonymity said only one doctor was working and “he is doing it for God’s sake.” He noted that many of the patients have been discharged while the remaining few were been attended to by the nurses.

The demands of the striking doctors

Members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had on April 1, embarked on a ‘total and indefinite strike’ after the expiration of the ultimatum (March 31) issued to the federal government yielded no significant achievement.

These striking doctors who are undergoing training to become consultants make up a large percentage of doctors in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals.

Amongst other things, the resident doctors are demanding payment of all salaries arrears, upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers, payment of the outstanding Covid-19 inducement allowance, particularly in state-owned tertiary facilities and payment of death in service insurance for all health workers who died as a result of Covid-19 infections and other infectious diseases.

According to the president of the association, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the doctors are also demanding the “implementation of September 2017 Memorandum of Terms of the settlement between NARD and the government in order to bring lasting peace to the health sector and curb the ongoing ugly trend of brain drain from the sector.”

 

“We are not an association of signing, we want action” – LASUTH, LUTH

Speaking with Ripples Nigeria, the President, Association of Resident Doctors, LISUTH, Azeez Ojekunle who said some of their members are being owed about three-months salaries said it is unfortunate that the masses will be the ones to bear the brunt of the strike adding that many lives have been lost and some cases worsened but this time around, the government needs to act and be sensitive to the plight of the public.

“The strike is all about healthcare service to the masses, first it is a national directive, from our national body to embark on a total and indefinite strike which culminated with an earlier three-month notification to the federal government to address the issues at hand,”

He lamented that none of the resident doctors reside within LASUTH despite several promises made to provide accommodation for their members.

“As our name implies, we are resident doctors, we are supposed to be residing in the hospital, no single resident in here in LASUTH has been accommodated. Many have to come through far distances to get to work. We that are resident, that are trained to become a specialist, which is an investment in the health sector none of us are accommodated. No accommodation quarters and we have been on this over seven years.”

Responding to the Hippocratic Oath which makes the wellbeing of patients cardinal, Mr Ojekunle said those that would deliver better healthcare have to be in good shape, quoting a part of the oath that states “I will attend to the best of my own health wellbeing and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.”

Reacting to President Buhari’s medical trip to the UK at the time the doctors were embarking on a strike, Secretary of Association of Resident Doctors of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Samuel Okerinde said the trip was not “surprising” and that it was his (Mr Buhari’s) “habit.”

Asked if there were other measures taken aside from strike to drive home their demands, Mr Okerinde said “strike is the only language they (government) understand.”

He noted that the industrial action is in the best interest of the patients.

An orderly in the emergency unit of the Yaba Psychiatric hospital said doctors are on strike but the LOCUM doctors (contract staff), nurses and consultants are working.

By Oluwakemi Adelagun…

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