Some medical officials and consultants engaged on temporary basis by some tertiary hospitals affected by the ongoing strike of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) are lamenting about heavy workload, while some patients with critical conditions are complaining of slow pace work at these hospitals as a result of the strike.
A medical official Joseph Eziechila, who is the head of clinical services, second in command to the chief medical director (CMD) at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi in Abuja and an ophthalmic surgeon dropped his titles on Tuesday to attend to patients in his office and struggled to attend to some of his statutory administrative responsibilities.
He said, “I am the number two man in this hospital but I am now combining clinical services with administrative work.
“About four doctors broke down last weekend due to stress. Yesterday, the head of the internal medicine unit said even the locum doctors in his team are breaking down. He said they are planning to further downsize treatment and stop receiving new patients.
“Before now, whenever there was a strike like this, I would make a few phone calls and get as many locum doctors as I wanted. But this time, the situation is different. I started calling doctors as soon as the notice was issued but only very few of them showed up despite our promise to pay them more than N200, 000.
“Hospitals are increasingly becoming ghost places. Some of these doctors see this as an opportunity to write their exams and leave the country because there is high demand for medical professionals overseas due to COVID-19. Countries like the U.K., U.S, Australia and Saudi Arabia are in high demand for doctors. So it’s funny when the labour minister threatened to sack the striking resident doctors. Who would replace them?”
Ezichiela added that at least five senior doctors in the hospital have left the country within the last three months.
Although the resident doctors at the Osun State University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, formerly the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital, did not join the national strike, doctors at the hospital are also lamenting the increasing number of patients being referred to them.
A family medicine expert and senior resident doctor at the hospital, Bello Olalekan, said since the strike commenced, most patients at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH) in Ile-Ife, have been trooping to Osogbo for treatment.
“Since OAUTH joined the strike, we have been at the receiving end here. There are no spaces for new admission and patients are not taking excuses,” he said.
An attendant at the general outpatient department of the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, revealed that the only consultant on duty usually attends to 10 patients every day since the strike started.
The attendant said, “And most times, even the numbers would have been shared by workers before the patients arrived. So it is as good as not attending to anyone.”
Equally, a source at the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos, said not more than 30 new patients are said to receive medical attention on a daily basis.
The source said, “We no longer take new patients at the emergency unit except the condition is critically bad.”
While there are complaints from medical officials at these affected hospitals, patients also lamented about the slow work pace and how patients suffer lack of treatment. At the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, a young man, Buna, expressed regret that his mother who had been diagnosed of paget disease of the breast, a rare condition associated with breast cancer, and scheduled for surgery on August 19 would no longer be attended to.
“We were referred to UCH or Enugu but we opted for UCH because of its proximity to Lagos. But here we are now stranded. Now we need to take my mum back home and only hope they call off the strike as soon as possible,” he said.
At the FMC, Jabi, in Abuja, a 27-year-old mother, Mercy Aigbe, who had visited the hospital with her baby, Ela, said she was tired of waiting for her turn.
She said Ela needed medical attention for her prolonged cough “but I am tired of waiting here.”
National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which represents about 40% of doctors in the country, began a strike over pay, insurance benefits and poor facilities as the country faces a third wave of coronavirus on August 2, 2021.
NARD president, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi said the industrial action was to push government to honour its agreement on pay arrears, hazard allowance as well as insurance benefits to families of doctors who have died of the virus.
Okhuaihesuyi said Nigerian doctors were ill-equipped and under-funded for the job while the facilities in state-run hospitals are deplorable.