Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, yesterday, urged doctors, under Lagos state employment, under the auspices of the Medical Guild to call off their 3-day warning strike and return to work saying most of the issues for which they embarked on strike had been resolved.
The Governor, who attributed the major cause of doctors’ strike to inadequate communication and understanding between the two parties, spoke with newsmen at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Yaba, where he commemorated the year 2020 tree planting day and commissioned a 36-chamber morgue donated by IHS Towers to the state government, however, said he was displeased by the action of the doctors.
He said: “Grievances are natural in any organization and it will start and end on the table. It is rather unfair and unfortunate that any of us especially the doctors at this time would want to take an opportunistic approach because of the pandemic.
“I think it is rather unfortunate and utterly condemnable and I think I owe the system as the Chief Incident Commander to express and say to you to come back to work. I am still your governor, resume back to work and whatever the issues are, we will sort it out. I am supposed to be a father to all and there is no better engagement that we can have but on the negotiation table.”
On the issue of allowance payment to health workers, the Governor said: “We actually pay people allowances that are twice their monthly salary to serve as motivation and we are the first in the country to do that, we are doing that because we are the epicenter of the pandemic and we needed to show leadership, and show our people that we are concerned and committed to our health workers and so we paid that amount.”
Delay in payment
Besides, the governor explained that the delay in payment of two months COVID-19 allowance was because of the need to do proper enumeration and ensure that the right health workers who have worked during the response get their dues.
He said: “We had a two-month delay because we wanted to be sure that we are giving the right people their dues because it is a lot of money and as I speak, most of them if not all of them have gotten their allowance for the two-month arrears. And what we have paid is more and in some instances twice what the Federal Government is paying.”
On the issue of shortage of health workers, the Governor said: “We have given approval for recruitment of 760 health workers of which 400 are doctors alone. Even the capacity to identify the 400 doctors is also a challenge and that process has started. It is only the health workers and teachers that have that standing rule to replace upon retirement. I have given approval and the process has started with the health service commission.”
On the issue of dismissal of doctors, Sanwo-Olu said they were not dismissed but were only redeployed to their primary duty post after spending about three to four months at the isolation center.
His words: “We realized that people are getting tired, a lot of health workers and doctors have had to work back to back over this period and fatigue was setting in and we said that let us do a change. Initially, we just wanted a small team, we took the challenge and we felt that we needed to retool them re-energize them, take the ones that have worked here for three months back to their regular work where they will be paid their hazard allowances and bring fresh doctors that are in the hospital here to come and work.
On the allegation of disparity of wage paid by the Lagos state government and Federal Government, the Governor declared that the minimum wage in Lagos is higher than what the Federal Government pays.
“We will always have issues around misinformation or lack of information. Or maybe the Commissioner for Health is not always available any time they (Medical Guild) want to meet with him. But the man has a difficult job to do around this pandemic”, he said.
Lagos govt creating the wrong impression of doctors —Medical Guild
Reacting to the governor’s statement, the striking Lagos medical doctors described the response of the Lagos State Ministry of Information to the ongoing 3-day warning strike as an attempt to smear them, claiming that they tried all within their powers to prevent the strike.
In a statement signed by the Medical Guild Chairman and Secretary, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo, and Dr. Ismail Ajibowo, they argued that the response was only out to create a wrong impression that the strike was being masterminded by a few members of the Medical Guild.
The statement reads: “The Medical Guild is a professional body with well-skilled members, an affiliate of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA with the aim of catering for the welfare of its members and providing world-class medical services to Lagosians, Nigerians, and foreigners.
“We start by drawing the attention of the government that more than 200 medical doctors who are members of the Guild have been infected with COVID-19, many of whom also infected their families with attendant short and long term complications. This is a testament to our desire to serve our patients and our calling.”
Responding to some of the issues raised about the wages, salaries, and emoluments, they said: “Apart from the fact that there are security implications of releasing remuneration of employees publicly, the state government has maintained that they have no agreement with the COVID-19 volunteers at the isolation center, hence, the government has been paying any amount it deemed fit, usually after agitations.
Medical services paralyzed as strike enters Day 2
Meanwhile, medical services were paralyzed in all the Lagos State-owned hospitals as many patients, who showed up for treatment, were turned back following the warning strike embarked by the members of the Medical Guild.
Only a few senior doctors could render skeletal services.
The doctors, who were majorly heads of departments, only attended to a few patients whose cases were serious and emergency cases while others were sent back home.
From the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, to the Gbagada General Hospital, Ikorodu General Hospital, and Isolo General Hospital visited, the situation was the same. Only emergency cases were being rendered. Nurses and other health workers were also seen carrying out their routine duties.
Patients lament strike
Some of the patients, who spoke to Vanguard, confirmed that only a few of them were being attended to while some of them were asked to go home.
A relation of a patient on admission at LASUTH who simply identified herself as Mrs. Veronica Ejiro said they have been informed that a strike was ongoing and that doctors may not be coming on around as usual.
“My sister had an incident and she is currently on admission. We were told there is an ongoing strike. The nurses are also attending to us.”
The President, Association of Resident Doctors, ARD, at LASUTH, Dr. Oaku Itohan, who confirmed the situation, said LASUTH-ARD was an affiliate of Medical Guild, hence, their members are all participating in the 3-day warning strike.
Itohan said: “I hope mutual respect and goodwill will prevail; preventing any further escalation of the strike for the sake of all.”
At Ikorodu General Hospital, many patients were seen on the ground, unlike other hospitals. A patient who spoke under anonymity said: “I have been attended to but many of us may not be attended to because the doctors are on strike.”
The situation was also the same at Gbagada General Hospital.
Patients on admission are being seen and the few patients that turn up at the hospital are being attended to.
The Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Adeleke Kaka said: “Patients who need emergency attention and patients in the wards are being taken care of but the services rendered can’t be the same, it cannot be as it used to be because of the ongoing strike by the doctors.”