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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Crisis Looms As Lagos Doctors Begin Strike

Doctors in the employ of the Lagos State Government have begun a three-day warning strike. They also warned that if the authorities did not meet their demands, which include the payment of their May 2012 as well as August/September 2014 salaries by March 4, they would embark on a full-scale action. The state Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr. Bisi Kufo, made this known on Tuesday in Lagos. He also accused the state government of being partial with its ‘no work, no pay’ policy, especially as it withheld doctors’ salaries following a strike called by the Nigerian Medical Association.

The NMA embarked on nationwide strike last July to protest issues of relativity and other federal appointments in the health sectorHowever, on Tuesday, Kufo, while frowning on the discriminatory policy in the state, alleged that other health workers under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Union received their salaries despite the fact that they embarked on strike last December and January.

He stated, “The ‘no work, no pay’ policy has not been applied to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, teachers union, workers in the judiciary; and the Joint Health Sector Union. Some of the groups recently embarked on industrial actions with their protests lasting longer than ours did, yet they all received their salaries. “It is our belief that if the government holds the doctors hostage, it is indirectly holding the people hostage. We have been appealing to the administration to look into this, among other issues, and we have sought at great length to resolve this via appeals and advocacy, all to no avail. “It appears that the administration intends to push the guild to go on a strike, a situation we want to avoid because we believe such an action will only affect the less-privileged and other members of the public, whom we serve. “All our efforts to avoid a strike failed to move the administration, and eventually we were forced to issue an ultimatum for industrial action on December 29, 2014.”

Besides, the Lagos doctors are kicking against the casualisation of doctors in the state. According to the Vice-President of the Guild, Dr. Saliu Oseni, the trend can lead to shortage of specialists in the state-owned hospitals as well as frustrate the treatment of patients who need such medical expertise. Oseni added, “The residency training programme at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital has been truncated following the continual employment of doctors as casual workers. “When a doctor is employed on contract basis, he/she will have no training or career path because his/her appointment can be terminated at any time. “It takes, at least, six years to train a specialist, how do you train a doctor who has just six months contract with his/her employer to become a cardiologist? “There is going to be a dearth of medical experts, if the government continues with this trend instead of recruiting resident doctors who will be in its employ for at least five years, after which they would have the required expertise.”

Meanwhile, the fresh industrial action by the Lagos doctors is coming a few weeks after other health workers in the state suspended their warning strike over issues bordering on remuneration. However, Governor Babatunde Fashola has appealed to the doctors and other health workers in the state not to see strike as a means of settling dispute with the government. According to him, the frequent strikes by health professionals in the country have endangered the lives of many Nigerians over the years. The governor, who spoke at the State Council on Health meeting on Tuesday, urged them to remember that they offer essential and life saving services to humanity.

Emphasising the role health workers play, Fashola said they were the only professionals privy to health matters of the old and young and therefore they should not abuse such privileges. The governor said, “Doctors, physicians are the only set of professionals that we open up to both physically and emotionally without being embarrassed. If you have had relationship with multiple partners, though it is your social life, but you must tell your doctor, should he/she ask about it, because our lives are in their hands.

“They are highly-placed professionals and they should not consider strike or withdrawal of services at anytime.”

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