Consultants, nurses take over duties at Abeokuta FMC
No going back, say doctors
Effects of the strike declared by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) yesterday revibrated across the country. The Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) was deserted on the second day of the strike yesterday.
Many patients on admission in LASUTH wards were discharged while some were referred to other facilities to avoid their conditions from further jeopardising their health. Based on the strike, only medical consultants were providing care for mainly emergencies and critical care patients yesterday, resulting in only skeletal services.
The President, LASUTH-ARD, Dr. Itohan Oaku, said beyond the strike, doctors “owe a responsibility” to their patients to ensure their sustainable care irrespective of the strike. He said: “That is why you may find some resident doctors doing some things for patients on admission presently. It is either that they are sorting the admitted patients out or the patients are referred to other hospitals that will take care of them appropriately because as doctors we owe a responsibility to our patients and we are fully aware of that.
“We had the weekend to sort those patients out. However, if some patients are still there (in the wards) probably they want the nurses to help administer a few drugs.”
to him, usually doctors are not in charge of administering medications. He added: “Usually when we see our patients, we write out the plan and nurses follow through on the plan; hence, we had the weekend to go through the care of our patients in the wards, saw them and wrote the needed things either to refer, or give the data of those that were good enough to be discharged.
“I know of one or two patients we spoke to who preferred to stay back based on their belief that the strike would be called off quickly; and some also stayed back because there were already notes by resident doctors for the nurses to follow on their continued treatment.”
When the New Telegraph visited LASUTH yesterday, some patients who visited the centre for care, but were turned back without being attended to by doctors, said the resident doctors’ strike made it impossible for the doctors to treat them. One of them lamented that he came from Okokomaiko and arrived at the hospital as early as 9am to follow up on the heart-related challenges troubling him. Sadly, he was only given another appointment by the record staff. He said: “I am feeling severe discomfort in my chest area.”
The man added that he also was not able to breathe properly. “What am I going to do now? This is unfair,” he lamented. Investigation by the New Telegraph at the tertiary health facility yesterday showed that many of the few patients at the centre for care were given new appointments. Only very few patients were seen in various clinics such as Hematology, Dematology, Echocardiography Unit, Dental Unit, Medical Emergency, Surgical Emergency, among others. In a related development, the strike by the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter, which has been on strike since Tuesday last week, has suspended it’s strike but immediately joined its national body.
The President, ARD-FCTA, Dr. Roland Aigbovo, said most of the chapter’s demands had been met, including payment of the COVID-19 hazard allowance. He said: “Association of Resident Doctors FCTA suspends her week long indefinite strike.
The AGM, which held virtually yesterday, Monday, 7th September, 2020, resolved to suspend the industrial action following the payment of the COVID-19 hazard allowance and implementation of variation for some of its members who were successful in the 2018 promotion exercise.”
However, patients seeking care in Abuja public hospitals would still not be able to get proper medical treatment, as only skeletal services were being offered in hospitals visited. The strike has begun to take its toll on the activities of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abeokuta, Ogun State, as consultants, nurses and other auxiliary staff yesterday took over duties at the hospital.
When the New Telegraph visited the hospital, many patients had been discharged by the hospital while other patients were transferred to other hospitals for medical attention.
The strike has almost paralysed activities at the hospital. New Telegraph observed that only emergency cases were attended to by consultants, nurses and other auxiliary staff of the hospital who were on ground. One of the resident doctors at the hospital, who spoke with New Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, said immediately the strike commenced, the hospital discharged all its patients while those who could not be discharged were referred to other hospitals. He said the strike by the over 300 resident doctors had grounded activities such as clinic, ward round and theatre sessions.
But the Head of Clinical Services of the hospital, Dr. Fidelis Ojeblenu, noted that the strike would have terrible effects on Nigeria’s health sector, especially when the country was battling to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Ojeblenu lamented that the strike would drastically affect the success the country had recorded so far in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
He said: “A strike at this point in time is rather unfortunate because we know that COVID-19 is still here with us even though the curve is flattening gradually.” Although Ojeblenu said the hospital had put in place a mechanism to mitigate the effect. He said: “But there is no doubt that the strike will have a terrible effect in the coming days because this cannot be sustained for a long time.”
Also, activities at federal and state tertiary hospitals in Enugu State were yesterday brought to a partial halt. Only senior registrars and consultants were rendering skeletal services when New Telegraph LASUTH gate monitored developments at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku/ Ozalla, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital (FNH), National Orthopedic Hospital (NOH) and the State Teaching Hospital, ESUT-Parklane all in Enugu. At the State Teaching Hospital, ESUTParklane, consultants were attending to patients as the resident doctors joined the strike.
Dr. Chima Edoga and Dr. Ekeoma Nwosu, the presidents of ESUT-Parklane and UNTH ARD, confirmed that their members joined the strike when they spoke to New Telegraph.
At the Federal Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital (FNH) only patients on emergency were admitted for treatment while those on admission whose cases were relatively stable were discharged. Only a handful of doctors were attending to patients while some new ones were turned back. A consultant, Dr. Onyekachi Ugwuonye, said the strike had paralysed activities in the hospital. Ugwuonye, who is the Deputy Vice President, Enugu chapter of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), said “as it is now, only patients on emergency are being attended to while patients on admission are being discharged.
This is because we don’t have manpower to look after them if you leave them here”. The Chairman of ARD FNH, Dr. Nkire Joel, told our correspondent that they joined the strike because that was the only thing “the government listens to”. Joel said the dilapidated state of hospitals in Nigeria was what ARD could not continue to overlook.
He said: “This issue has been ongoing for a very long time. The hospitals are in a dilapidated state. If you come to where I work at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, you will cry and it is unfair. So the healthcare has to be looked into by the government but unfortunately nobody listens to you unless you go on strike. We are not happy going on strike. We just want the government to cooperate; let’s talk about the health care in Nigeria.”
Also the immediate past chairman of NMA Enugu State chapter, Dr. Ike Okwesili, begged the government at both Federal and state levels to urgently enter into negotiations with the striking doctors. Okwesili added that “if the strike lasts for one week, the healthcare system in the country will crumble”. In Oyo State, the doctors vowed that there was no going back on the strike until the Federal Government met their demands.
The state NARD Chairman, Dr. Adedayo Williams, made the vow yesterday at the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan. Williams noted that although the Federal Government had already called them for a meeting which had been slated for Wednesday, the doctors won’t call off the strike based on that. He said: “Our aim is not to endanger the lives of our patients, but we don’t want the government to play games with us because a frustrated doctor that will be not able to concentrate and likely not stable, is even more dangerous than a patient left uncared for.
“The principle of Medicine is ‘you either leave the patients how they are or you do no harm’. Some of our demands were met after our last agitation, but there is a need for the government to dialogue with us and sort things out.” The chairman also said there was total compliance by members. “But some patients who were admitted before the strike and in critical conditions are still being attended to,” he added.
Checks by New Telegraph showed that new patients were not being attended to by the doctors, just as many who came for medical check-up went back home, disappointed. In Borno State, only the resident doctors working with the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) but resident doctors in the employ of the state government did not join the industrial action. Our correspondent, who went round the State Specialist Hospital, Umaru Shehu Hospital and Nursing Home, reports that doctors attended to patients on long queues.
A hospital official, who did not want his name in print, said “you can see that I am in the office and we are busy attending to patients. In Borno State we have a peculiar problem of insurgency and our people are going through hardship; we don’t want to add more salt to an injury by embarking on strike”. A patient, Mallam Muhammadu, said he was not aware of any strike. He said: “I just came out of the doctor’s office and you can see the prescription he gave me. I am going to the pharmacy for my drugs.”
Another health official, who spoke with our correspondent on the phone, said “even on Tuesday last week we had a meeting with the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, and we discussed extensively on the demands of the hospitals, our welfare and also the reason to consider the plight of our people who have suffered a decade long insurgency.
So we see no reason to join the strike”. But at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital patients were stranded, as the resident doctors complied with the NARD directive. A relative of one of the patients said his brother would be taken elsewhere for medical attention. He said: “We don’t know what to do. Because of the condition of our brother, we have to take him to the state-owned hospital because I learnt that they are not on strike.”