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Services collapse in hospitals as doctors begin warning strike

The doctors are on a five-day warning strike called by the NMA to demand better working conditions in the health sector. Government had made last…

The doctors are on a five-day warning strike called by the NMA to demand better working conditions in the health sector. Government had made last minute efforts to persuade them to shelve it, but apparently failed. NMA president, Dr Osahon Enabulele, told Daily Trust that though a Memorandum of Understanding was reached by all stakeholders after a 14-hour meeting, the NMA was yet to deliberate on the MOU.
Visits to several hospitals by Daily Trust showed that the strike was quite effective in Abuja yesterday as most public hospitals were empty with patients hanging around corridors, some grumbling, confused and planning their next move.
At the National Hospital, Abuja, the striking doctors had earlier discharged most patients from the wards while others who could be managed by nurses were still on admission. The situation was not different at Wuse and Maitama General hospitals, as patients left the hospitals complaining in low tunes.
A patient at the National Hospital, Mrs Margaret, told our reporter, “I was supposed to see my paediatrician today with my baby, but I got here only to hear that they are on strike. I heard some conflicting information, some people told me the strike had been called off. Doctors should not just go on strike just like that, knowing the implications of their action”.
Spokesman of the National Hospital, Prince Tayo  Haastrup, said though doctors were on strike, the management of the hospital had taken measures on emergency cases.
Elsewhere in the country, patients at the Usman Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto were left at the mercy of House Officers. House officers are fresh graduates of Medicine who as required to spend one-year in a recognised hospital before proceeding for the mandatory National Youth Service. Our reporter yesterday discovered that most of the consultancy services including attendance to emergency cases were rendered by the House Officers. A nurse said the strike affects them only on life-threatening cases but they could manage other cases.
Reports from Jos said doctors at the Plateau Specialist Hospital complied with the directive of the NMA, as care-givers of admitted patients stood outside the wards with their belongings discussing.  Debora John who said she and other members of her family brought a patient to the hospital from Sanga LGA of Kaduna State, said, “Our patient has been admitted for a week and we just heard that they want to discharge us today because of the strike even though he is still sick.” At the Jos University Teaching Hospital, activities were skeletal as only emergency cases were being attended to. At the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital Bauchi, the Chief Medical Director Dr Mohammed Alkali said the strike was affecting services, saying the hospital had planned the best way to handle the situation by providing essential services.
Doctors in Borno State also joined the strike, as visits to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) and the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital as well as other health establishments yesterday showed that they were not at their duty posts.
Chairman of the Borno State chapter of the NMA Dr. Mohammed Arab Alhaji told Daily Trust that his members were complying with the directive given by their leaders at the national level but would be attending to life threatening cases.
Our correspondent reports that doctors in Nasarawa State have put up some contingency plans for patients with critical conditions even as the strike is being fully complied with according to the state NMA chairman, Dr. Ayuwaja Nayagawa, who told newsmen in Lafia that compliance was impressive in the state. He said heads of various units in government hospitals were urged to remain on duty to perform skeletal duties on their patients already on admission, although no new admissions will be entertained.
A visit to the General Hospital in Minna revealed that normal activities were going on as patients were being attended to only by nurses and other health workers, but doctors were not attending to patients. A source said only two doctors reported for duty but did not attended to any patient.
The strike also paralyzed medical services in government owned hospitals in Rivers State. The state chapter of the NMA had at their emergency meeting in Port Harcourt Tuesday directed all members to comply. Spokesman of the association Dr Sokaribo Oweredagba said all members agreed to comply.
At the Katsina General Hospital, nurses, student nurses and hospital officials who spoke to Daily Trust said normal activities were going on as patients on admission were being administered their medication as directed by doctors.
“We were directed to give all patients on admission their treatments from now till Monday. If there is a case of emergency, a doctor will be called and the patient will be taken to the out patient section; but there are rarely cases of emergency”, a worker said. At the Turai Yar’adua maternity and children’s hospital and the Federal Medical Centre no doctor was seen in any ward.
The strike stalled activities in most hospitals visited in Ilorin as doctors failed to attend to patients. The hospitals visited included the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Sobi Specialist Hospital, Civil Service Clinic, and Adewola Cottage hospital, all in Ilorin metropolis.  At Sobi Specialist Hospital, new patients were turned back while those whose conditions are not too severe were discharged.
Patients seeking medical consultation at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja were yesterday left unattended.
One of the patients at LASUTH, Ikeja, Pa Aladejumo Bidmos, said he came for his routine check for tuberculosis. The 56 year old said he was given an appointment to see the doctor yesterday to monitor the progress of treatment.   Shehi Ali, the state chairman of the NMA in Kano said the doctors had on humanitarian ground decided to continue attending to cholera cases and other emergencies.
“Because of the outbreak, we are going to be attending only to patients of the epidemic and other emergencies. We are doing this on humanitarian ground, but all other activities apart from this have been suspended because of the strike,” Ali said.
Visits to some hospitals in Benin showed total compliance with the strike. Hospitals visited included the University of Benin Teaching Hospital [UBTH] the National Psychiatric Hospital as well as the General Hospital, all in Benin. At the General Hospital, all patients in the wards were discharged as there were no doctors to attend to them.
Doctors in Oyo State also stayed away from work in virtually all the stated owned hospitals. At the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Ring Road State Hospital, Adeoyo, Ibadan as well as Oni and Sons Children Hospital, also in Ibadan, doctors were not attending to patients even though senior medical officers were around to attend to emergencies.