Saturday, 21 March 2020

Patients Groan As Doctors Strike Paralysis Abuja Hospitals

The ongoing strike by the Association of Resident Doctors which started three days ago has crippled heath care service delivery in most of the 14 district and general hospitals in the FCT. The resident doctors are striking over shortfall in their January pay, which they said the FCTA blamed on Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), a software used in the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to pay salaries across board. Daily Trust reports that the association had earlier given a 2-week ultimatum to the FCTA over part payment of its members’ salaries and a 7-day extension which elapsed last Monday. When our reporters went to Asokoro District Hospital, many patients were stranded.

Some of the patients who were on admission, Daily Trust Saturday learnt, have left the hospital while others were seen still waiting to see the outcome of the strike. Other categories of medical staff like nurses, laboratory scientists, radiologists, pharmacists and paramedics were, however, on ground and were offering skeletal services. When approached, nurses declined comments but said that the doctors’ strike does not have any effect on their job. Some of the patients narrated how the strike had denied them access to medical care.

A patient, Omale Christopher, lamented that he has been in the hospital for a while and was getting better but the strike is now reversing the recuperation and making his condition worsen. Another patient, Hajiya Hauwa Umar, appealed to the government and the doctors to resolve their differences so that patients would be attended to. At Nyanya General Hospital, the strike halted medical services as doctors and other workers were not on ground to attend to patients. Our reporters observed that only few patients were in the hospital wards. Some of them who spoke to our reporter lamented that the absence of the doctors has rendered their stay in hospital useless but since they did not have money to go to private hospitals, they were still hanging around waiting for the industrial action to be called off. Sarah Steven said: “I had done some medical tests and was waiting for the doctor’s review but now the strike has made it impossible for me to see the doctor and my condition is worsening.” At the Wuse District Hospital, all the patients on admission have been discharged. Our reporter who visited the hospital found out that patients in the paediatric ward, female medical ward and male ward had all been evacuated while only a few patients were still in the female surgical ward. A patient, Ifeoma Jane, said “I am supposed to undergo surgery in the leg. I have paid all the bed fees and the surgery fee. But the strike has halted any attention from the doctors. The management said they have discharged us but we refused to go.” On her part, Blessing Nwankwo said “even though they serve us notice of discharge, I will not go. I don’t have anywhere to go. Many people have left the hospital because they have the means to go to private hospitals but I don’t have. That is why I will stay and wait.

Meanwhile, FCT Minister of State, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, has described the strike action as uncalled for and unhealthy for residents of the territory in view of the global health challenge. The minister who stated this during a dialogue with the leadership of FCT resident doctors, called on the striking doctors to call off the strike in the interest of the common man. Aliyu who advocated for dialogue in resolving serious issues among health workers and other industrial bodies, also maintained that the FCT Administration has treated matters relating to the health profession with high level of seriousness and urgency. According to her, “this is not a happy gathering for me. I have to leave the Federal Executive Council meeting to address this issue because of the seriousness the administration attaches to health matters. “Before you embark on this industrial action, did you consider the oath of this revered profession in view of the global health challenges? If the dreaded COVID-19 or Coronavirus hits the FCT (God forbids), it will affect all of us including the striking doctors. “Is there anything your body has requested from the administration and we fail to address? The delay in salary was as a result of migrating from one platform to another which affected all secretariats and departments.

You should bear in mind that in every construction or reconstruction, people must make sacrifices. “To be honest with you, the strike is uncalled for and it is not healthy. We should learn to respect the rights and privileges of others. We should not forget in a hurry that we will still end up on the roundtable to resolve pressing issues” She, therefore appealed for synergy and proper communication on both sides, while calling on the striking doctors to call off the strike based on overriding public interest. Earlier, the President of FCT Resident Doctors, Dr. Roland Aigbovo, stated that members of the body decided to embark on strike to enable the authorities address salary shortfalls, and skipping arrears.

He however commended the administration for efforts made in the past to resolve the lingering issues amicably, while assuring the minister that the strike will be called off after meeting with other members on Thursday. Aigbovo, also assured the minister that House Officers are at work in all the public health facilities across the territory.

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