Patients of public hospitals across the country were left stranded on Monday as members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) downed tools following the failure of the government to fulfill its promises on salary payment, hazard allowance, medical residency training fees, and COVID-19 allowance among others.
Findings by Daily Trust indicate that while patients on admission in some of the hospitals were hurriedly discharged and asked to leave the hospitals, outpatients were denied access to the health facilities.
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NARD had in a communiqué issued Saturday after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Umuahia, Abia State, said it would resume its nationwide strike on Monday, August 2, following the inability of the federal and state governments to meet its demands and implement the memorandum of action after 113 days.
The association had suspended its indefinite nationwide strike, earlier this year, following a Memorandum of Actions (MOA) signed at the instance of the Minister of Labour, Sen. Dr. Chris Ngige.
Our correspondents report that there was a high level of compliance by chapters of the NARD in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and in the states.
Full compliance in the FCT
Checks across public hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) revealed that resident doctors complied fully with the strike directive by the association.
Our reporter who visited the Asokoro District Hospital as well as the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada observed that there was compliance.
Some patients who do not want their names in print told the reporter that they were not aware of the industrial action till they visited the hospital Monday morning.
Some of them sat waiting at the outpatient departments and had to leave when they were told doctors were on strike.
At the National Hospital, Abuja, no resident doctor was seen working as they complied fully with the strike. However, only emergency cases were being attended to while new patients were denied admission.
However, the spokesman for the National Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Tayo Haastrup said the hospital was not turning patients away as consultants, and house officers were attending to them.
Patients turned back in Akwa Ibom, Ilorin
At the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), Akwa Ibom State, patients were left stranded as Residents Doctors joined in the indefinite strike action on Monday.
While many outpatients were turned back from the main entrance and advised by security men to go back home, a few medical consultants were seen attending to patients in critical condition.
A mother of two who gave her name as Katrina Obot said she was earlier given an appointment by one of the striking doctors for surgery but lamented that her condition could worsen if she does not get immediate medical attention.
“I don’t know where to go to now. I am just stranded as one of the doctors gave me an appointment for surgery and I was hoping to have it today but see what has happened.
“I did not know that the doctors will be on strike and my husband cannot afford the cost of private hospitals,” she lamented.
At the emergency ward, some matrons seen there refused to admit new emergency patients. One of them who spoke on condition of anonymity said more than half of the patients were discharged and asked to go home.
The Corporate Affairs Officer of UUTH, Mr. Ofon Ofon was not available to speak with our correspondent on the issue.
Similarly, a visit to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Oke-Oyi revealed that some patients were turned back.
Nurses were seen attending to patients in the various wards visited while many relatives of the patients were sighted outside the building discussing.
A Doctor who also spoke on the matter said “Only patients that were on admission before the strike have been attended to.”
The university’s PRO, Mrs. Elizabeth Ajiboye denied the university turned back any patients, saying: “Although, clinical services are affected but we have our consultants on the ground running skeletal services”.
Services paralysed at ATBU-TH
In Bauchi, our correspondent reports that medical activities were grounded at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital (ATBU-TH) with many patients groaning over nonattendance by doctors at various wards.
An inpatient who gave his name as Kabir said, “Throughout today, no doctor entered the ward to examine our medical condition. It is unfortunate because we only got information from nurses in the ward who told us that doctors were on strike. We are now left with only nurses administering drugs proscribed by the doctors before the on strike began.”
A father of a patient on admission, Abdullahi Tela, said they spent the whole day without seeing a doctor, adding: “We were not aware that the doctors planned a strike until we realised that the normal routine of attending to patients by doctors did hold today.”
When contacted, ATBUTH, Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), Dr. Saidu Abubakar Kadas said that the management of the hospital made contingency provisions to cover the gap created by the strike.
All efforts made to get the reaction of the Bauchi State branch Chairman, Resident Doctors were not successful as at press time.
Strike affects isolation centres in Ibadan
As activities crippled at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan on Monday, our correspondent who went round wards including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) reports that the strike also affected all the COVID-19 isolation centres in the state.
Some patients were, however, left at the mercy of consultants who provided some medical services, our findings show.
The Chairman of the Resident Doctors in the state, Dr. Temitope Hussein said: “All residents’ doctors at the UCH have started indefinite strike as directed by the national body. And when such a strike occurs, the consultants who constitute less than five per cent of the entire workforce take charge. So, we have started an indefinite strike.”
Admitted patients discharged in Enugu
At the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUT-TH), Enugu, it was observed that patients complained and waited for doctors endlessly even after paying for doctors’ consultation fees.
It was observed that relatively healthy patients were being discharged in their numbers to go home.
However, there were very few consultants and house officers seen attending to the large number of patients admitted before Monday.
A patient, Mrs. Juliet Onyia, who came with her baby to the Children’s Ward said that she waited for over four hours after paying for her consultancy fee to see a doctor but without attention.
“They should not have collected the doctor’s consultancy fee of N500 from me since they are not working,” she queried.
‘We were taken unawares’
At the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH, some patients said that they were taken unawares by the strike action, adding that no one attended to them when they visited the hospital on Monday.
Similar complaints were recorded at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH).
A patient’s relative, Mrs. Justina Akpan said that she did not hear about the strike beforehand and that nobody attended to her husband who was admitted last week to the male orthopedic ward.
She said she may have to depend on the nurses detailed to dispense drugs and dress her husband’s amputated leg.
Similarly, some patients at the outpatient section at the Benue State Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) in Makurdi said they had no prior information about the strike while other medical officers were seen rendering, perhaps skeletal services.
A patient, Jimbia, who was waiting to see a doctor, said she reached the hospital early in the morning and was yet to be attended to, though no one asked her to go back home.
President of NARD in BSUTH, Dr. Ushakuma Anenga told our correspondent that the resident doctors in the facility complied 100 per cent with the strike following the directive by its national body.
The University of Benin Teaching Hospital’s chapter of the Association of Resident Doctors also joined the strike action, the chairman of the UBTH chapter of the NARD said.
Although it was observed that consultants and other health workers were still attending to patients, Ufuani Ifeanyi, said they have joined the strike and it is total.
In Owerri, while the authorities of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, said the strike by resident doctors did not substantially affect services in the hospital, the President of NARD at Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Edward Chima, told our correspondent that resident doctors at the hospital complied 100 per cent.
In Ado Ekiti, however, the President, Resident Doctors, Dr.Olaoye Olaniyi, said the state chapter had been on their local strike for three earlier due to some demands that are yet to be met by the state government.
I’m shocked resident doctors embarked on strike – Ngige
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, on Monday, expressed shock over the strike action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) despite holding a “Successful evaluation meeting” with the leadership of the union last week.
Ngige, who stated this while addressing newsmen shortly after a meeting with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), said the government was proactive enough to avert the action with some agreements reached during the meeting.
He also disclosed that the government and the ASUU evaluated the implementation of a Memorandum of Action (MOA) both parties entered into with a view to averting industrial dispute in the universities.
According to him, the meeting evaluated seven key issues “With both parties expressing satisfaction with the implementation stages of what he termed “work in progress”, saying some of the items in the MOA were nearly done hundred per cent within the timeline.
Contributors: Fidelis Mac-Leva, Ojoma Akor & Seun Adeuyi (Abuja), Iniabasi Umo ( Uyo), Hassan Ibrahim(Bauchi), Raphael Ogbonnaiye( Ado-Ekiti), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan), Tony Adibe (Enugu), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Eyo Charles (Calabar), Usman A. Bello (Benin), Abah Emmanuel( Makurdi), Nabob Ogbonna (Abakiliki), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam ( Owerri)