Signs emerged yesterday that an indefinite but partial strike by medical doctors in Lagos State may blow up into a full-scale shutdown of medical services.
That prospect came in a new statement released yesterday by the Lagos Medical Guild. The doctors had last Monday embarked on an indefinite but partial strike, but continued to offer critical services for emergency and serious health cases. However, in a statement issued yesterday, they warned that the partial strike might culminate in a total shutdown of public hospitals, citing the negative attitude of the Lagos State Government to all their gestures to resolve the crisis.
The Medical Guild alleged that its members’ past strikes resulted from being shunned by Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, adding that the governor even now continued with his attitude of shunning their request for discussions.
A medical source accused the governor of repeating his boast that his families do not use the public hospitals, thereby taunting them to continue their strike for as long as they wished.
In addition to reportedly ignoring them, the governor, according to the doctors, had also ordered that the few services they left open should be totally shut down.
They also said Mr. Fashola had threatened to continue using the “no work, no pay” policy as a tool to mete out discriminatory treatment to the doctors.
The statement issued by the striking doctors is reproduced below:
MEDICAL GUILD PRESS STATEMENT
TO: Esteemed members of the press.
We write to inform about various developments which you aware of regarding the current strike.
As we continually remind you, the current strike was embarked upon following the government’s steadfast insistence on:
- The continued appointment of doctors as casual (contract) workers, while stating in clear terms, that all non-doctors currently on contract appointments would have their appointments converted to permanent ones, and there would be no more appointments of non-doctors on contract.
- Non-resolution of the discriminatory application of the state’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy to members of the Medical Guild only in the period between April and May 2012 and September 2014.
The Guild has directed that during this action, emergency care and services to the critically ill be provided.
The response of the Fashola-led administration to this action, which as you are aware came after a protracted seven-and-a-half month period of appeals, advocacy, as well as a media campaign will interest even the most passive observers.
- The administration has declared the strike as ‘illegal’ and brings the question as to who decides the legality or otherwise of a strike action, and whether the administration intends to take away the rights of workers to strike.
- The administration has come up with threats and intimidation, setting up registers for doctors to sign and constituting monitoring teams made up mainly of junior workers.
NONE OF THESE MEASURES WAS TAKEN WHILE THE AMORPHOUS BODY KNOWN AS THE JOINT HEALTH SECTOR UNIONS (JOHESU) WAS ON STRIKE. Indeed, all our efforts to keep the hospitals functioning during the JOHESU strike were frustrated by the administration. Members of JOHESU placed many hospitals under lock and key, and the administration made no attempt to open them!
- The administration has also, curiously, told us that it is not interested in emergency services, and has threatened to apply the segregationist ‘no work, no pay’ policy to members of the Guild, in obvious denial of the fact that we are at work!
It appears that the administration intends to provoke doctors into embarking on a total withdrawal of services, without a care about the effects on the public, whom we serve.
WE MUST ALSO ADD THAT THE ADMINISTRATION DID NOT MAKE ANY SUCH THREATS DURING THE JOHESU STRIKE, AND MEMBERS OF JOHESU WERE PAID DURING THEIR STRIKE.
The events of the past seven and-a-half months, leading up to the current actions, have been a litmus test for many of the administrations utterances and actions in the past.
It had stated to all that doctors ‘always jumped into strikes’, yet it ignored appeals, advocacy, a media campaign and rallies over a six month period, only inviting the Guild to talk when we eventually threatened a strike out of frustration.
It stated that ‘doctors always abandoned their patients’, but has decided to ignore the fact that services are being provided for emergencies and the critically ill in this action, responding that it is not interested in the provision of emergencies, and implying that, to it, that is not work.
Rubbing salt on an open wound, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the governor of Lagos State, in an open display of his undisguised lack of respect for the medical profession, bluntly refused to see the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Kayode Obembe, who rushed into Lagos on Friday the 13th of March 2015 with the intention to intervene and avert the strike!
These positions illustrate clearly that the administration is discriminatory, segregationist and pursues an open policy of apartheid in its relationship with the Medical Guild and the medical profession.
These blatant double standards are further displayed by the governor’s recent ‘grand’ opening of the cardio-renal center where specialists will work. The center’s staff are believed to be mainly expatriate, while the administration is currently crashing the training program (residency) for local specialists in the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH)!
It is also important to respond to the current Goebbels of the Lagos State administration, the Honorable Commissioner for information, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba who has been making statements on television which require correction.
He stated that we went on a ‘sympathy strike’ with the National body of the Nigerian Medical Association, and had ‘they had no issues with us’.
The truth: The National strike was about issues of clinical governance, and was to prevent certain demands from becoming federal law, which the state would be bound to follow, as by their own admission, the purported ‘no work, no pay’ policy is a federal law.
It was stated to him that members of JOHESU also joined a national strike and he was asked if they were paid. He made no comment regarding the fact that they also joined a national strike, but replied vaguely that ‘the law is not discriminatory’.
The truth: Members of JOHESU did join a national strike, and they were paid.
We continually remind the Nigerian public that one of the reasons for this action is because the ‘no work, no pay’ policy was applied discriminatorily, only to members of the Medical Guild in the period from April and May 2012 to September 2014. In that period, at least six other groups as we have stated previously embarked on strike, many of them national strikes, and they were fully paid.
Mr. Ibirogba, as commissioner for information should have these facts, and should be questioned about this open display of apartheid.
The Nigerian nation has witnessed repressive leadership in the past and has overcome. Be assured however that the Medical Guild and the profession will survive this onslaught.
Dr. ‘Biyi Kufo