Gombe State Government has assured people of the state that it has taken pro-active measures to mitigate the effects of the strike action embarked upon by the State chapter of Association of Resident Doctors (ARD).
The assurance was given by Dr Ahmad Muhammad Gana, Commissioner, Ministry of Health while addressing Journalists on Monday saying that, “It is saddening to note that the association is embarking on an industrial action at a time when the world is battling the global pandemic of new Coronavirus infection (COVID-19) and locally the state is still trying to contain outbreaks of highly infectious diseases such as Lassa fever”.
The Commissioner added that, “In saner climes, retired health workers volunteer to offer free support to the health system during such epidemics. This strike is certainly against the moral ethics of medical practice and demonstrates the insensitivity of the association to the plight of the public”.
He added that, “It is also important to note that most of these doctors were sponsored throughout their medical training by the state government, and are also enjoying the recent minimum wage increment. The current administration has persistently demonstrated that health sector is one of its highest priority areas, and despite the severe financial constraints, huge investments has been made in the sector”.
The Commissioner disclosed that the government has released the sum of NN350m so far for the upgrade and renovations of the State Specialist Hospital to a world-class facility, released another sum of N423m as counterpart funds for various developmental programs in the state, most of which are health-related.
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Also released was the sum of N605m to scale up NSHIP intervention to all the 11 Local Government Areas, aimed at providing at least one fully functional primary health facility in every ward in the state as well as the prompt release of the sum N42m for preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, including Lassa fever and Coronavirus Disease in the state.
Mohammed Gana further said that the sum of N160m was released for payment of stipends to Village Health Workers who are providing community health interventions to complement the work of trained health care workers across the state while many other efforts demonstrated by the administration was geared towards improving Healthcare delivery services.
He, however, declined that, “It is worth noting that most of the demands of the association are not peculiar to doctors alone, and were inherited from the previous administration, dating back more than three years”.
The government according to him is fully aware of the concerns of the doctors and has already set in motion machineries to address holistically the problems in both short and long terms pointing out that, “As a short term measure, the government released the sum of N5.65m) to thirteen house officers, all in an effort to cushion the effect of their delayed upgrade, pending the constitution of the civil service commission.”
He added that, “Among other measures, the government has also established the hospital management board and the State Contributory Health Scheme in an effort to systematically address most of the yearnings with respect to promotions and upgrades for the entire sector, without limiting to only doctors”.
“Furthermore, arrangements have reached advanced stage to secure accreditation to commence internship training of fresh graduating doctors at the State Specialist Hospital, which would go a long way in boosting the manpower of the facility”, he assured.
He also said that Over the past three months, the government has, in different capacities, engaged the association in a series of discussions to make them see reasons and avoid creating unnecessary hardship on the people of Gombe State during these trying times. Unfortunately, these efforts seem not to be appreciated by the association.
“Consequently, the management of the ministry has since yesterday, summoned an emergency meeting to discuss mitigation strategies to ensure that the strike does not seriously impact the delivery of essential health services across the state. During the emergency management meeting, the following resolutions were made”, Mohammed Gana said.
He, however, explained that, “Noting that senior doctors on GL 15 and above, who are only honorary members of the association are not expected to go on strike, all patients on admission at the health facilities should be retained to be managed by these senior doctors. All senior doctors on posting in the ministry or its agencies should be drafted to the State Specialist Hospital and the Zainab Bulkachuwa Women and Children Hospital to complement patient care services at these facilities”.
He also directed that Members of the hospital management teams of all the facilities are expected to remain at their duty posts as management staff do not partake in strike actions, All NYSC doctors, who are not members of the association, should continue to render services while A group called “Concerned Doctors Forum”, made up of over fifty (50) doctors, have dissociated themselves from the strike and pledged to continue rendering essential services during the strike action
Lastly, Mohammed Gana said that “I will like to call upon the public to remain calm and continue to seek for health care at all the public facilities of the state. Be rest assured that the Government is doing all it can to ensure that people of Gombe State continue to access all services required at these facilities”.