It is a season of strikes in Nigeria and the doctors are leading the pack. Strike is arguably the most common word among anyone who has something to do in any state hospital these days.
In fact, if you are a doctor employed by a state government, you probably belonged to one of these groups; those who have called off their strike, those on warning strike and are negotiating with their state government, those whose warning periods have elapsed and are threatening to go on full scale strike as well as those who are still on full scale strike and are not ready for any plea from their governments.
The strikes were to drive home demand for payment of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure(COMMESA).The state doctors are demanding that they be paid the same amount their colleagues working in federal health institutors are earning.
Some state governments are accusing their doctors of insensitivity to the plights of patients they have sworn to protect. Some state governors have even told their striking doctors that there is no money to pay what the federal doctors are earning and if they pay what the doctors are asking for, the state will go into intensive care unit financially.
The doctors on the other hand are accusing politicians of wastages and inconsiderate of the plight of doctors who have to deal with more than enough patients than they can cope with. One doctors was quoted as saying that his state governor is wasting public funds on political campaigns and rallies and its only when doctors are asking for a pay rise that he realizes that the state doesn’t have enough money. “And he want us to believe such poorly cooked lies?”,asked the doctor. It’s been a ding-dong battle of accusations and counter accusations. In some states, it’s more of an exchange of verbal missiles with many hapless patients caught in the cross fire with its attendant casualties.
In Ebonyi State the exchanges has been between, the NMA and state commissioner for health and environment who accused the NMA of being used by political opponents. “We want to say it categorically that the industrial action embarked by NMA is not politically motivated as being announced by the state commissioner for Health and Environment, Dr. Sunday Nwangele”, said Dr. Johnson Obuna,Chairman Ebonyi State NMA.
“He should stop blackmailing us and feeding the government with lies, what we are agitating is that doctors in the state should be paid what is due to them. We are not politicians and no politician in the state is using us to destabilize the government. The health system in the state has collapsed and we can’t sit down and watch,” Obuna added.
A few state such as Lagos and Ogun have actually been lucky. Last week, the Ogun state public hospitals were opened to patients following an end to its three-month-old strike.
The Ogun State Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA) had called off the strike (Wednesday January 19,2011) following an agreement reached by the NMA and the state government to commence the implementation of the 100% of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure with effect from February 2011.
Dr. Adewunmi Alayaki the State NMA Chairman was moving around yesterday to ensure doctors are at work attending to patients. According to Alayaki, only 75percent of the salary would be paid in February, but with a provision that the payment of the 25 percent would be considered as soon as possible.
“It is our hope that the governor will use his good office to ensure strict compliance with the content of the circular at all levels of healthcare in the state in order to consolidate the renewed industrial harmony in Ogun State Health Services.” said Alayaki.