By Sola OGundipe, Chioma Obinna & Nnamdi Ojiego
LAGOS — RIPPLE effects of the indefinite strike called by Lagos doctors under the auspices of Medical Guild took its toll on healthcare institutions in the state, yesterday, as several cases of deaths were allegedly recorded following paralysis of medical and clinical services even as patronage from patients dipped significantly.
From the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, to General Hospitals in Gbagada, Isolo, Orile Agege and Ikorodu among others, patients were left unattended. At the LASUTH, armed policemen, numbering six, arrived in a black pick-up van and strategically took up position within the immediate vicinity of the medical emergency ward of the health institution when Vanguard arrived the hospital at about 11.00 a.m., yesterday.
Two corpses at LASUTH
Although they did not in anyway interfere with on-going activities, their presence caused some concern to visitors and by-standers.
Findings by our reporters who were at the facility, revealed that the medical emergency ward was almost deserted, except for two corpses inside. The corpses which were later moved to the mortuary on the premises, were confirmed to be those of two patients on admission who allegedly died for lack of care.
A hospital source revealed that one of the patients, a man, died on Tuesday night while the second one died yesterday morning.
The source, which pleaded anonymity, hinted that the patients were in critical condition and required intensive care which could not be rendered when the doctors abandoned their duties as a result of the strike.
“This is the kind of development we witness when there is strike. The same scenario is going on in other hospitals owned by the state. It is a pity many more patients are going to die. Unfortunately, these deaths will not be reported. This is the reality of strike.”
Apart from the cleaners, only minimal activities were on at the surgical emergency ward and the surgical emergency outpatient clinic. The same situation prevailed at the dental clinic and all other outpatient clinics.
Most of the consulting rooms were either shut or inactive. An attendant at the LASUTH mortuary simply remarked: ”What do you expect when doctors refuse to work?”
NMA blames Lagos govt
However, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Lagos State chapter, roundly blamed the state government for letting the face-off between it and the Medical Guild degenerate to an indefinite strike.
Earlier, Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr Olumuyiwa Odusote, described the panel set up by government to try doctors at the Health Service Commission,over the three-day warning strike, as “illegal.”
Meanwhile, the state government has condemned the indefinite strike, accusing the striking doctors of trying to blackmail the government and ruin the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba, described the strike as “ridiculous, unnecessary and malicious , aimed at discrediting the state government.”
The fate of patients in over 20 general hospitals and a teaching hospital in the state will hang in a balance pending the resolution of the issue.
We are ever ready for dialogue —Govt
The Lagos State government, yesterday, said it was ever willing to dialogue with the striking medical doctors in the state. Commissioner of Health, Dr Jide Idris, disclosed this while speaking at the “Community Awareness and Sensitisation programme on Malaria Prevention and Control” organised by the Lagos government in collaboration with Roll Back Malaria and Reckitt Benckiser Nigeria, to commemorate the 2012 World Malaria Day, held at the Ikorodu council secretariat.
He said: “We have met their demands and we are willing and ready to talk with them. We will do more if we have the resources. We will also employ more doctors if the need be. Therefore, I am using this medium to appeal to doctors to go back to work for the sake of our patients. Whatever that is their grievances can be settled amicably.”
He, however, added that as part of the government’s efforts to resolve the lingering crisis, he would be meeting with senior doctors who apparently were not happy with events in the health sector.
While assuring those who did not join the strike of protection, the commissioner appealed to the aggrieved doctors to allow their members to work without disturbing or distracting them.
Falomo blasts NMA leadership
In a related development, Chairman, Elders’ Forum of the NMA, Dr Ore Falomo, has lambasted the leadership of Lagos chapter of the NMA over the incessant doctors’ strike in the state.
Falomo who spoke at the free medical screening and empowerment programme for the less-privileged by Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation in Lagos accused the doctors of using Lagos State, where 70 per cent of all doctors in the country resided, as a testing ground for CONMESS-related issues.
His words: “The truth is, there is no way Lagos government would be able to meet what Federal Government has met. If Federal Government creates a problem, Lagos doctors should not replicate it here. And Lagos State should not be made a testing ground for everything. It is impossible for government to meet all the demands of the doctors. So if the government gives you 90 per cent of your demand, you can accept it and ask for the remaining 10per cent later.”
Falomo who is also the Chairman of Medical Advisory Committee to the Lagos State Governor, noted: “Something must be wrong about the leadership of the doctors, if not, common sense would have prevailed among them about how they handle strike matters. It is disheartening, shocking and embarrassing that they have gone on strike again. This is one strike too many.
“No matter what their grievances are, it is illegal for them to leave their patients and embark on strike. It is time immemorial factor that you should not abandon your patients for what whatever reason. It is against the law, against morality and against common sense.
“The most annoying and embarrassing thing is that patients are left on their sick beds by the doctors and this doesn’t do any good to the image of the doctors. It is disheartening for those of us who believe that things could be done in the different manner than going on strike.”
Striking doctors must face panel, respond to querry –Idris
Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has insisted that the striking doctors must respond to the query as well as face the disciplinary panel even as the Lagos State branch of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA has lent its support to the strike, threatening that if by May 7 there is no positive response from the Lagos State government, the NMA will be forced to join the strike.
The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Idris in a reaction to the ongoing doctors’ strike in Lagos, also reminded the striking doctors that they could not fight their employers.
According to the commissioner, “the doctors cannot wake up and do whatever they like if the disciplinary action was not taken, other people will follow suit.
“You cannot entrust people’s lives to people who can just wake up and say they are going on strike. It is not right. It is not in the interest of our people.”
Idris disclosed that the all the demands of the doctors had been met, adding that they have paid them the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, but could not pay house officers teaching allowance because they are teaching nobody.
On the panel
“If you are a civil servant, if you get your letter of appointment, you cannot wake up and say you will not come to work. Your employer has the right to ask you why you did not come. You also have the responsibility to explain. Then if your explanation is okay it ends there. If it is not okay, they take further steps. That is what is happening because if we did not do it, every other group may also wake up and do like the doctors.
NMA backs doctors
President of the State NMA, Dr. Temiye Edamisan in his reaction to the strike urged the state government to step down from its war zone and embrace the path of peace for the benefit of its citizenry. He further warned that the state doctors would not face any disciplinary panel for participating in a legal strike.
He said:”The doctors would not face any panel. We appeal to the Lagos State government to retract the action of war and intimidation it has embarked upon. Any attempt to arrest,dismiss or humiliate any of our members will lead to actions that may spread beyond Lagos State.”
Edamisan also warned doctors to refuse any attempt by the state government to recruit them to replace the striking doctors, adding: ”Any doctor recruited to replace the ones Lagos State intends to sack will be sanctioned. Your action would be interpreted as professional misconduct, an offence punishable under the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Act.”
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