Daily Trust (Abuja)

26 August 2014

Nigeria: Low Turnout in Hospitals As Doctors Suspend Strike

Photo: Premium Times
Hospitals are short-staffed and doctors overworked.

Abuja, Bauchi, Lokoja, Maiduguri, Calabar, Owerri, Yola, Lagos — There was low turnout of patients at hospitals across the country yesterday after the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) called off its nationwide strike while many doctors were yet to resume work in some hospitals, a situation our correspondents attributed to internal arrangements within the various units of the medical association.

Though the NMA said it was too early to assess the situation yesterday and that by midweek things would have returned to normal, doctors in some states were yet to resume, and feelers from our correspondents indicated that patients seemed not very sure if the doctors would actually turn up for duty yesterday, just as moves towards full resumption were being made through negotiations between managements and local units of the NMA in some states.

First vice president of the NMA, Dr Titus Ibekwe, told Daily Trust that all doctors had agreed to return to work, saying he was not aware that some doctors failed to resume as the decision to end the strike was a collective one.

"The decision was democratically taken, you know we made four attempts to call off the strike which failed in the past, the constitution of the NMA is a rich one, and that is why the process to call for a strike is quite vigorous, and the same process had to be followed to call off this recent strike", he said.

He said the association has chairmen in all the 36 states of the federation who were yet to report on the degree of responsiveness to the suspension of the strike, assuring that the decision would be unanimously obeyed.

At the National Hospital in Abuja, doctors returned to work but received only a few patients.

Spokesman of the hospital, Tayo Haastrup, said doctors were on duty, and the situation would improve by midweek as most patients might not be aware that the strike had actually been called off. In Bauchi, the NMA said doctors at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University were yet to resume because they had an issue with the management. Chairman of the unit, Dr Muhammad Dauda Yusuf, said resident doctors at the ATBUTH started their strike earlier than the nationwide one and doctors there were meeting to review the situation but doctors in other hospitals resumed as directed by the national leadership.

Doctors at the Federal Medical Centre Lokoja, Kogi State, were yet to return to duty as patients were not attended to, but a source at the hospital said the doctors were holding a meeting on the issue and would soon start work.

Doctors in Maiduguri were now fully back to work yesterday. Our correspondent who visited the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) and the Federal Psychiatric Hospital observed that activities went on in the hospitals. Patients said they were happy that the doctors were back to work.

But the story is different in Benue from where our correspondent reports that doctors in government hospitals were yet to fully comply with the resumption directive.

At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Makurdi only skeletal services were still being provided by some medical personnel but the spokesman of the hospital, Alex Ohemu, said the doctors reported to work and were at a meeting, adding that they would begin normal duties Wednesday.

President of the Association of Resident Doctors', FMC chapter, Dr. Uche Augustine, said they actually complied with the order but were surprised that on return to work, government had yet to reverse the sack of resident doctors.

Doctors at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital met for eight hours yesterday over a condition that they must write an undertaking before being re-engaged. Sources at the hospital said the doctors and the management did not agree. By 3pm yesterday, the doctors were still in the meeting, refusing to attend to patients. Nurses and midwives attended to patients.

Similarly, full medical services were yet to resume at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, and the General Hospital Umuguma, all in Imo State.

Most resident doctors and consultants were yet to report. Our correspondent who visited the FMC Owerri said skeletal services were provided in some units with just a few patients being attended to.

Activities took off fully in public hospitals in Yola, Adamawa State. At the Specialist Hospital, doctors attended to patients.

Some of the patients welcomed the end of the strike, calling on government and the NMA to find a way of avoiding the situation in future.

Some of the patients who were evacuated by their families to private hospitals during the industrial action were rushing back to the Federal Medical Centre, Yola.

Bello Damare, a family member of one of the patients, said he was delighted with the development having exhausted his money at a private clinic.

Patients trooped into the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja while activities were yet to fully pick up at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Mushin.

When our correspondent visited the National Orthopeadic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, doctors where seen attending to patients who expressed excitement with the doctors' return.

The administrative unit of LASUTH was filed with patients who waited to see doctors.

While doctors resumed work in public hospitals in Plateau State, only a few patients were in hospitals. The few patients expressed happiness that the doctors were back. A patient at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Mrs Agnes Gyang said, "Doctors came today and we were attended to. We are happy that they are now back." An attendant at the accident and emergency ward said the doctors were back to work. At the Plateau Specialist Hospital in Jos, there was a large turnout of patients.

Normal activities were yet to resume at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, (UDUTH) in Sokoto.

State chairman of the NMA, Dr. Abdulgafar Jimoh, said activities had not fully resumed because they were yet to resolve an issue at the local level, while negotiations were still on with the government but assured that work would commence as soon as they finalise the issue.

Patients in Kano were disappointed as doctors did not resume duty. Patients were seen moving around, waiting for hours without being attended to. A patient at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Binta Adam, said she was at the hospital at around 7am but was not attended to, and decided to leave around 1pm.

Turnout of patients in Kaduna hospitals was low. Our reporter who visited the Yusuf Dantsoho Memorial Hospital reports that only a few patients turned up.

The chief nursing officer in charge of the General Outpatient Department, Comrade Baba Ismail, said: "Naturally, in this hospital, we usually have more patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays which is our diabetic and hypertensive clinic days, so on these two days, the hospital is usually congested with patients".

At the Federal Neuropsychiatric hospital, a source told our reporter that doctors resumed but with a little confusion. "They resumed and worked but there was a circular from the Federal Ministry of Health announcing the sack of all resident doctors so unless another circular is sent countering the first one at management level, they remain sacked," he said.

Judd Leonard Okafor, Ahmed Mohammed, Usman A. Bello, Hamza Idris, Hope Abah, Eyo Charles, Johnkennedy Uzoma, Kabiru R, Anwar, Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen & Chris Agabi,  Hassan Ibrahim

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InFocus

Nigerian Doctors Call Off Strike

Hospitals are short-staffed and doctors overworked.

The Nigerian Medical Association has suspended its nationwide strike and resumed duty in federal hospitals across the country. Read more »