The Federal Government has mandated all chief medical directors in teaching hospitals across the country to open attendance registers with a view to stopping salaries of doctors taking part in the strike called by the National Association of Resident Doctors.
The order, which was revealed to The PUNCH by a senior health official, was also confirmed by the President of NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, on Sunday.
The senior health official, who confided in The PUNCH, stated, “Government is determined to implement the no-work-no-pay order. As from tomorrow, attendance registers will be opened in all hospitals. Everybody will be paid based on attendance.”
As government and resident doctors on Sunday traded blame over the strike, plight of patients in the affected hospitals worsened as many of them were withdrawn by their relatives.
Recall that NARD on Monday last week resumed the strike it suspended on April 10 following the Federal Government’s promise to meet its demands including payment of the residency fund, COVID-19 allowance, hazard allowance as well as the outstanding salary shortfalls.
Before resuming the strike on Monday, the doctors alleged that the Federal Government failed to implement the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with them after over 100 days they suspended their last strike.
According to them, despite efforts by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to ensure the Medical Residency Training Funds are captured in the supplementary budget, the Federal Government has failed to disburse the funds to their members.
The PUNCH last week reported that the strike grounded tertiary hospitals in the country as consultants, who were left to attend to patients, were overwhelmed by the large number of the patients.
On Friday, the Federal Government said it had invoked the “no-work-no-pay” rule as contained in Section 43 of the Labour Act.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who stated this in an interview on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, said government had communicated its position to the leadership of NARD.
You can’t bully doctors you haven’t paid with no-work-no-pay threat, NARD lambasts FG
But the NARD President, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday said, “We are aware that they are going to bring down registers tomorrow. We are aware that they have spoken to chief medical directors on that. We are aware they have sent a circular on no-work, no-pay to all teaching hospitals.
“We are not aware if they have answered our ultimatum. What have they done in trying to convince the younger ones to go back to work when they have not answered our Memorandum of Action which was signed on March 29 and April 9? So, these are the big questions.
“You are in government and you want to discipline a child, you beat the child but you still hold the mouth of the child to prevent him from crying out. You had 116 days since you signed a Memorandum of Action which was time-bound and you had six weeks but as of tomorrow it will be 117 days and you have not done anything. Will you bully your child that you have not paid for months and still want to impose a no-work, no-pay policy?
“He (Ngige) has already written to the chief medical directors of hospitals and we are aware they are invoking the no-work- no-pay policy already, but we are not resuming yet,” Okhuaihesuyi said.
On the alleged threat by the Federal Government to sack NARD members if they failed to resume this week, Okhuaihesuyi said it was a welcome development.
The NARD President argued that anyone hired by the Federal Government would automatically become a NARD member.
He further wondered where the government would find the doctors to replace the 16,000 NARD members who were already trained.
“I don’t see how they will replace someone who has been in training for three to five years with a new person who hardly knows anything. Anyone who is brought in as a resident doctor will automatically be our member anyway,” Okhuaihesuyi said.
He added that his association had received an invitation to meet with the House of Representatives Committee on Health on Monday (today).
He said, “The chairman, House of Committee on Health, Dr Tanko Sununu, has sent an invite to us to meet him in Abuja on August 9, 2021.”
Resume first or forget further negotiations – Ministry
When contacted, the spokesman for Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, told The PUNCH on Sunday that the position of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had not changed.
He said the ministry would only meet with the NARD officials after calling off their one-week-old strike.
Akpan said, “What the minister is saying is that they should go back to work and they can come to the ministry and talk. There was an MoU that was signed with them after which they came back again to report to the ministry. Government is already implementing parts of the agreement as stated in the press statement issued after a meeting on July 22.”
When asked if the government would consider sacking the doctors if they remained adamant, the deputy director said, “The government is not interested in sacking the medical doctors but what government needs from them is that they should return to work because most of the issues presented by the resident doctors are already being treated by the governors.
“Governors have taken care of those issues and if they feel the governors have not taken care of them, which they are insisting, it can be done. What the government is saying is that their strike action is illegal, there was no notice.
“The government is not interested in sacking anybody; they just wanted them to do the right thing. They should return to work and then come to the ministry and we would conciliate.”
When asked about the sanctions that would be imposed on the striking doctors, Akpan stated, “The minister has answered this question during his interaction on Channels Television which was well reported. No additional information.”
We will do what FG tells us to do – LUTH
Tertiary hospitals, including the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, on Sunday said they would open attendance registers as directed by government.
The Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee of LUTH, Professor Wasiu Adeyemo, told one of our correspondents that the hospital would obey the directive of the Federal Government.
He said, “We are employees of the Federal Government, whatever they ask us to do, we will have no option than to do it.
“You actually think that we can go against the Federal Government? That is not possible. We will do whatever the Federal Government tells us to do.”
The Head, Corporate Affairs, Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido Ekiti, Francis Bank-Akinnuoye, said on Sunday that the attendance register was a tradition in the institution, adding that it was being enforced by the SERVICOM Unit of the institution.
Bank-Akinnuoye, who said that the registers were available in the different departments in the hospital, said, “It is a normal process in an institution like ours. We have been doing it consistently for years.”
Relatives withdraw patients
But as hospitals prepared to enforce the Federal Government’s directive, many patients were withdrawn by their relatives on Sunday.
A nurse at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi, who didn’t want to be named, told one of our correspondents that many patients on admission had been withdrawn.
He said that new patients were not being admitted as a result of the strike.
He said, “Patients are being brought to the hospital, but they are not being admitted. They are being turned back.
“They are turned back because based on the hospital rules or setting, doctors are the people who have the power to either admit or discharge patients.
“But since the doctors are on strike, the nurses have to step in to take care of the patients. We give them drugs, injections and take care or their treatments to a certain extent.
“Many patients on admission have been withdrawn because of the absence of doctors. It’s not been easy for us nurses.”
In Ogun State, patients and relatives lamented the impacts of the strike on the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta and the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu.
In both hospitals, it was gathered that patients were being withdrawn by their relatives and taken to private hospitals.
Working without resident doctors not easy, says LASUTH MDCAN Chairman
The Chairman of the Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja chapter, Dr Mumini Amisu, on his part, lamented the impact of the resident doctors’ strike.
Amisu, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the consultants were trying their best to attend to emergencies and patients on admission.
He said, “It has not been easy, we are trying to cope and ensure emergencies are attended to as much as we could. The work of almost four different cadres is being carried by just the consultants. We are doing our best to ensure that emergencies are attended to as well as those on admission in the wards.”
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Mrs Joy Olumide, whose son’s appointment was affected by the strike, lamented that the son, Seyi Olumide, would be taken to a private hospital on Monday.
She said, “My son had an appointment with a dentist at the UCH (University College Hospital) Ibadan, last Friday, but I didn’t bother to take him there because I knew that residents doctors were on strike and the consultants that would be on duty would be overworked.
“In order not to waste my time, I will take my son to a private hospital because he has started complaining of pain, but that will cost more money.”
At the Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, Plateau State, workers told The PUNCH that they had been running skeletal services since the strike began.
A nurse at the hospital said, “All the wards at the hospital have been virtually empty since the strike started. Somehow, the few patients we have around have been a relief on the enormity of the work we usually do. But the consultant doctors are the ones feeling the impact of the strike the more, given their small number as well as given the fact that they have to combine their work with the work of the striking resident doctors.”
A resident of Ilesha, Osun State, who identified himself as Sesan, in a chat with The PUCH, lamented the hardship of the strike by resident doctors at Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesha, a branch of the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, had caused his ailing brother.
Sesan said his brother had been given a date this week for surgery before the commencement of the industrial action by the doctors in the hospital.
He called on the Federal Government and the striking doctors to resolve amicably the issues that caused the strike in the interest of many Nigerians, who could not afford medical care at private hospitals.