At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi araba, the hospital reception was virtually empty and some patients were seen sleeping on the chairs usually occupied by scores of patients.
By Abiose Adelaja Adams
In the last four days, droves of patients who besiege government hospitals have left disappointed, nevertheless most Lagos doctors, on compassionate grounds, offer skeletal services especially in critical and emergency situations. Meanwhile, activities such as routine immunization and child delivery continue.
According to the president of the Nigeria Medical Association, Kayode Obembe, the nationwide strike which began on Tuesday is not for selfish purposes, but to restore sanity to the health sector.
Some of the issues it demands are that the federal government ensures that chief medical directors of tertiary institutions be medical doctors; it prays the government to remove the title of consultant from health workers who are not doctors. Also it urges federal government to ensure 100 per cent universal health coverage of Nigerians not just 30 per cent as it currently is. This is by dedicating 2 per cent of the nation’s Consolidated Revenue Fund to health. It also wants 100 per cent health insurance coverage through the community health insurance scheme, since the National Health Insurance scheme only covers 30 per cent.
As a sign that the industrial action is not being insensitive to the plight of patients especially the poor, the Association which earlier made a 24-point demand, has done a downward review, and it is engaging in dialogue for an end soon, Obembe told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, on a visit to the Randle General Hospital in Surulere, the in-patients are being attended to by the nurses. A nurse in the ward who wouldn’t be named says the in-patients are not totally abandoned as they would call on resident doctors should their attention be needed. “If not, I will use my initiative to treat them. The doctors come to work. They resume, but it is only in emergency situation that they see patients.”
The medical director of the Hospital, in a phone interview says, “We have to work, because we are about saving lives. It gets to a point where you have to put saving lives first.”
As a confirmation, a similar situation is witnessed at the Ikorodu General Hospital. Although there was a crowd, sparsely seen by doctors, the consultants were on duty. A nurse at the Mother and Child complex of the hospital pointed to how women have been giving birth throughout the week and were attended to by consultants. According to her no lives have been lost.
The Lagos State chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Francis Fadulyile, however says that Lagos doctors are in full compliance with the national action. “If you say they are having skeletal services, it means they are on strike since you do not have the full retinue of doctors.”
It was however, a different story at a federal tertiary institution as the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi araba, as the hospital reception was virtually empty and some patients were seen sleeping on the chairs usually occupied by scores of patients. From the department of Medicine to Pediatrics, to the Diabetic Clinic, to Ear Nose and Throat and Radiology Centers, nurses seemed to be less tensed up as they cluster into small groups engaging in informal discussions. Likewise cleaners had little cleaning to do and were seen sleeping on the chairs, while the front desk officers and card registrars were seen explaining the strike situation and turning away patients.
Hopes that the strike will be called off soon are insight as the House of Representatives has directed the House Committee on Health to engage the NMA and Federal Ministry of Health and give a feedback a week from now.