Averting Doctors’ Strike In Lagos
Doctors’ Strike In Lagos
Patients seeking healthcare in public hospitals in Lagos State were, between Wednesday and Friday last week, thrown into a quandary as medical doctors in the institutions downed tools in a three-day warning Strike to protest non-implementation of 100 percent Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) and questionable taxation by the state authorities.
The doctors, under the banner of The Medical Guild, threatened a full- blown Strike if the state government declines to meet their demands. The chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote, told journalists last Wednesday that the doctors would not return to work when they begin the full-blown Strike until the template for taxation of doctors is changed and CONMESS is fully implemented. Reports indicate that the doctors are planning this Strike about one year after the state government failed to fulfill its promise on implementation of the Medical Salary Scale.
He directed that in-patients in the states hospitals be hurriedly discharged during the warning Strike while unstable ones are referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) at Idi-Araba, Lagos.
The Lagos State government has, however, described the Strike as illegal. The Head of Service, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, in a statement, vowed to invoke the Trade Dispute Act, which provides for non-payment of salaries of workers during the period of a strike, on doctors who participate in the industrial action. The state government described the Doctors’ action as blackmail, as negotiations on the contentious issues were still on.
Notwithstanding the facts of this impending strike, however, we think any industrial action by Lagos State doctors at this time will be one too many. The state has, in recent years, recorded a number of these strikes with regrettable attendant loss of lives. Last week’s warning Strike led to the hurried discharge of in-patients and referral of unstable ones to other hospitals. Fresh cases referred to the state’s public hospitals were not attended to. The state cannot afford a repeat of this.
Public hospitals are at the heart of healthcare delivery in the state because many residents cannot afford the huge cost of private medicare. It is incontrovertible that a Strike by doctors in public hospitals is a death sentence for many Nigerians.
We urge the doctors to reconsider their decision on a Strike and go back to the negotiating table to resolve all outstanding issues with the state authorities. We do not consider any Strike by doctors, who provide the essential service of healthcare, to be in good faith. The Hypocratic Oath to which all doctors swear forbids them from withholding medical care from patients in need of their services.
It is difficult to understand, therefore, why doctors in Nigeria find easy recourse to strikes without a thought for the patients who are at the receiving end of such actions.
Our doctors need to place greater premium on human life and try to bear with the state government. There is no doubt that all tiers of government in Nigeria are overwhelmed by the demands of providing essential services, including healthcare to the people.
While we agree that doctors deserve good pay and their full entitlements for the very important work they do, Nigerians will be happier if they can demonstrate good understanding, especially with the Lagos State government that has been in the vanguard of improving service delivery in all sectors, including healthcare.
This position, however, does not detract from the responsibility of the state government to fulfill its side of agreements entered into with doctors in the state. Let the two sides to the dispute go back to the negotiating table and come up with a solution that will be in the best interest of residents of the state. The plan for a Strike by the Medical Guild should be cancelled.
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