Amid ravaging pandemic, Ekiti residents worry over protracted doctors’ strike
•It’s sad turning back patients —Nurse
In the midst of a ravaging global health crisis, the situation appears to be worse in Ekiti State, no thanks to the strike action embarked upon by public medical personnel. ‘YOMI AYELESO reports the frustration of many patients in Ekiti State over the ongoing strike which commenced on June 30, 2020 in general hospitals and all primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in the state over what those affected described as government’s lackadaisical attitude to their plights.
To 62-year-old Joshua Adekunle, visiting the hospital for his medical checkup and treatment had been a seamless process until recently when he was left disappointed after he was turned back at the Specialist Hospital in Ikere-Ekiti as a result of the prolonged industrial action by medical personnel in the state.
“You know as an old man I need to take care of my health and that is why I always visit the hospital for necessary medical advice and possibly treatment. To my surprise two weeks ago, I got to the hospital and no doctor was there to attend to me. I returned home confused.
I don’t know what to do now and my health is deteriorating; no money to go to a private hospital for my treatment. I am in serious pain and I am begging the government to attend to the needs of the striking doctors for them to return to work immediately,” he said.
The narration of Mr. Adekunle summed up the position of things among Ekiti residents in the last four weeks since the strike action embarked upon by doctors in the state chapter of the National Association of Government General and Medical Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP).
Nigerian Tribune observed that activities have been paralysed in the 19 general hospitals, three state specialist hospitals and the entire primary healthcare facilities scattered across the 16 local government areas.
It’s sad turning back patients —Nurse
In some of the public hospitals visited by the Nigerian Tribune, it was observed that while outpatients were turned back by nurses, patients on admission had since left these facilities to seek treatment in private hospitals due to the nature of their health conditions and financial strength.
A nurse who works at the Omuo-Ekiti General Hospital told Nigerian Tribune on condition of anonymity of the hardship being faced by many patients in getting adequate medical care in the last four weeks.
She said, “It has not been easy since the strike commenced knowing full well we are dealing mostly with people at the grassroots that are largely aged. When they come and they are told the doctors are not on duty, they always look dejected.
“As a nurse, there is little or nothing that I can do when it has to do with dealing with patients because it is the doctors that do most of the work. We only complement where necessary. The people are really suffering at this period and we can only beg the government to consider the residents and engage the striking doctors so as to call off the strike.”
‘I waited for hours in labour pains’
Mrs Bimbo Adeleye, who was just delivered of a baby, narrated the horrible experience she was subjected to as a result of the strike.
“If you had seen the pains I went through before I could give birth last week, you would not pray it happened to your enemy. I had to wait in pains at the available hospital in the state capital for hours. The hospital was overstretched because people travelled from different parts of the state to have their delivery takes in the state capital.
“I hope you can see the risk of people traveling during an emergency. For instance, from Efon to Ado-Ekiti takes about two hours. This is a very precarious situation and I am begging the government to meet with these doctors and find a way to end the strike,” she said.
‘I spent my savings during COVID-19 lockdown, now I can’t afford healthcare’
45-year-old Kolawole Abidoye’s face showed all was not well. He lamented to Nigerian Tribune the damage the industrial action had cost his health. Abidoye, an artisan and father of three, said “You know some of us have been unable to do anything in this state since March as a result of the total lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of my savings had been spent during the lockdown to feed my family; nothing is left for us.
“I have no money to go to a private hospital for my regular checkup. At work, it is difficult to get patronage. I am really worried.”
Shola Olaoluwa who is a patient at the primary healthcare centre in Okeyinmi lamented the inability of the sick to access treatment in the hospital, adding that none of the doctors visited their ward for routine check.
Olaoluwa who said he was heading to a nearby private hospital for treatment appealed to both the government and striking doctors to call off the action in the interest of the public, declaring: “not all patients can afford treatment in private hospitals.”
On her part, Bose Clement explained that she left the hospital when there were no doctors to attend to her. “I had no other option but to leave the hospital when the strike started because these doctors really complied and shunned the hospitals. I don’t have money; if I did, I would have visited a private hospital. I will stay at home and hope for what God will do. At the moment, I am helpless,” she said.
Strike continues until our demands are met –Doctors
The striking doctors have vowed that the industrial action will continue until the state government has met all their demands which border on welfare, acute shortage of manpower and what they describe as deliberate neglect of the health sector.
Chairman of NAGGMDP, Dr Kolawole Adeniyi, regretted the negative impact of the strike on the patients but called on the people to show understanding and join them in the fight for an improved health sector in the state.
“I hope you know that it is only a doctor that has the power to admit and discharge patients and I regret to tell you that our people are dying,” he said.
He argued that the recently unveiled state health insurance scheme by the governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, would achieve little or no results without well motivated personnel and adequately equipped facilities across the 16 local government areas of the state.
Adeniyi said, “Ekiti State government remains unperturbed about the germane and critical issues being raised. Ekiti State has refused to commit itself to the protection of health care professionals at a time when nations are offering every support for this cadre of workers, more importantly in the face of the present covid-19 pandemic.
“Five of the general hospitals in the state have only one doctor each while the three state specialist hospitals have a total of six and seven medical doctors respectively. Out of the 20 doctors employed in December 2015, only five are left. Of another set of 20 doctors employed in 2018, six are left. Out of 20 specialists (consultants) employed cumulatively since 2016, only five are left. Unfortunately many more are only waiting for opportunities to leave. This has resulted in a progressive decline in the number of doctors from as many as 180 to as few as just 71 currently.
“It is even more disturbing that out of this number, less than 10 are at entry level while many are close to retirement. One can then wonder what the future holds for the common man who is seeking affordable and qualitative healthcare.”
To address the drift, Adeniyi called for the immediate implementation of the association’s nine demands which include: proper placement for doctors with full CONMESS, promotion benefits, hazard allowance, rural posting allowance, consequential adjustment on new minimum wage and other demands.
He decried the state of facilities in the state capital which he said had been over-stretched as the only hope for residents to have access to health care, for urgent and deliberate efforts at addressing the disturbing condition.
We are disturbed by ongoing strike —Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers
The chairman of the Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers and the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi in a statement noted that the traditional rulers were disturbed over the prolonged strike.
The statement signed by Chief Ajibade Olubunmi, the media adviser to Oba Alabi regretted that the ongoing industrial action has taken a toll on patients, calling on the doctors to show more understanding with the government and return to work for more discussions.
The monarch recalled that he had personally intervened twice adding that all hands must now be on the deck at this time of COVID-19 pandemic to fight the virus and other ailments affecting the people of Ekiti State.
Oba Alabi stated that the governor of the state, Dr Kayode Fayemi, would appreciate their (doctors) cooperation at this critical situation in the state, and that the striking doctors should therefore give the royal fathers the opportunity to wade into the issues involved in the interest of the people of Ekiti State.
Strike is ill-timed —Govt
The Ekiti State government has appealed to the striking doctors to reconsider their steps and suspend the industrial action in the interest of the people.
The government, through its Commissioner for Information, Mr Muyiwa Olumilua, was also quick to deny the allegations raised by the body that the three specialist and 19 general hospitals as well as the primary health centres in the state are experiencing a dearth of medical doctors, saying the state has over 300 doctors on its payroll, contrary to the frightening situation painted by the striking doctors.
“There are over 300 doctors in the service of the Ekiti State government and more than 700 doctors cumulatively in the state. Once again, government appeals to the striking doctors under the aegis of NAGGMDP to reconsider their position and return to their duty posts immediately. Continuing with this ill-timed strike action will only put the lives of Ekiti residents at more risk during this COVID-19.
“NAGGMDP leadership and that of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) were invited to more than seven meetings between June 11 and July 8, 2020 for constructive engagement. Government empathised with the association but explained that the state could not meet all their demands due to the global pandemic and dwindling monthly federal allocation and low internally generated revenue,” he said.
Olumilua said that the government was carrying out a lot of interventions in the health sector, including renovation of health facilities and launch of health insurance scheme to provide adequate cover for doctors in the state.
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