Patients in Lagos hospitals were caught napping on Monday this week when doctors in the stateâ€™sÂ General Hospitals went on strike again barely a week after they had suspended their strike atÂ the behest of the National Industrial Court. The court had on Wednesday, 18 August ordered theÂ doctors to suspend their strike to pave way for negotiations with the Lagos State Government onÂ their demands.
The doctors, under the aegis of the Medical Guild and the Association of Resident Doctors, ARD,Â are demanding among other things, the immediate implementation of the new Federal GovernmentÂ approved Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, approved for doctors at the federalÂ level. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, has said that there is no way theÂ state government could pay the CONMESS since it was not included in the budget, adding that itÂ will cost the government N1.8 billion to pay the doctors monthly if it implements the CONMESS.
Though there is merit in the positions being canvassed by both parties, we want the doctors andÂ the government to reach a compromise and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In theÂ interim, we appeal to the doctors to return to work immediately for the sake of the traumatisedÂ patients who are bearing the brunt of the renewed strike. Given their Hippocratic Oath, theÂ preservation of the lives of patients by the doctors should be paramount at all times. In viewÂ of this, the doctors should adopt a more humane approach to seeking implementation of theirÂ demands rather than the combative approach many believe they have adopted since the strikeÂ began.
The doctors should heed yesterdayâ€™s call by the President of the Nigerian Medical Association,Â NMA, Idris Omede, that all affiliates of the union nationwide that are currently on strikeÂ should suspend the strike while negotiation with the relevant authorities continues. He advisedÂ the striking doctors to uphold the ethics of their profession, one of which is the preservationÂ of life of patients in their care.
Considering the huge investment of the Lagos State government in the health sector, with theÂ budgetary allocation to the sector increased from N2.5 billion in 2000 to as much as N24Â billion in 2009, we understand the dilemma the government has found itself regarding theÂ additional N1.8 billion it would have to shell out monthly to pay the doctors the CONMESS.
The government has argued that it has placed high premium on the welfare as well as training ofÂ medical staff, exchange programme for skill acquisition, with over 5,000 clinical staffÂ benefiting from such training. The doctors should reciprocate this gesture by reconsideringÂ their demand and returning to work pending the resolution of the trade dispute.
We also appeal to the doctors to reconsider their stance and go back to work for the sake ofÂ the patients who are suffering as a result of the crippling industrial action. Because theÂ workforce in the health sector is the most prized asset, well meaning Lagosians should alsoÂ intervene in this matter which is taking a turn for the worse for the patients. If theÂ situation is allowed to persist, the casualties the strike will claim would be too much toÂ handle.
The ordinary people are the ones bearing the yoke of the strike as they cannot afford to treatÂ themselves in private hospitals because of the huge bills they will incur. Sometimes dialogueÂ is a better option for the resolution of grievances and not strike, especially in a sensitiveÂ sector like health that is manned by doctors and other medical personnel whose duties are tiedÂ to saving the lives of patients.