Patients and some others who came to access medical care in the University of Uyo Teaching hospital, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State were left stranded following the ongoing strike by resident doctors in Nigeria.
Recall that the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had on Thursday, April 1, 2021, embarked on an indefinite strike due to the failure of the Federal Government to meet their demands.
In a communiqué issued at the end of NARD’s congress endorsed by its President, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the union directed members to down tools until their demands which bordered on payment of all salaries owed house officers including March salaries, the general welfare of workers, removal of the President of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, Dr Tajudeen Sanusi amongst others were met.
When our correspondent visited the Federal Medical facility in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State(UUTH) to ascertain the level of compliance at the hospital, she found the premises almost deserted as only a few workers, particularly the administrative officers were available to attend to patients.
Patients interviewed expressed dissatisfaction over the situation as so many of them especially those who brought their sick ones to the hospital for the first time could not consult any doctor.
One Mrs Itoro Sunday told our correspondent that she brought her sick baby who had been vomiting and stooling all night for medical attention to the hospital but was frustrated to learn of the doctors’ strike.
According to her, “I came here(UUTH) this morning because my baby was running temperature and has been vomiting and stooling since last night. The lady at the counter did not sell a hospital card to me, she said that doctors are on strike that I should go. I’m just stranded because the money my husband gave me will not be enough to take her to a private clinic.”
Another person seen roaming helplessly around the corridor of the OPD said, “I don’t know why this doctors’/government wahala would come up now that I brought my mother to the hospital. Dem no gree sell card for me o. Dem say doctors dey strike, to go private hospital now no be small thing for me.”
When our correspondent visited the emergency ward which also houses the administrative section where cards are sold to first time patients, she found some exhausted sick patients sleeping on benches across the walkways and corridors.
Other sections, such as the Ear, Nose and Throat department were locked and no one was in sight to respond to inquiries.
Three different families who brought their wards to the dental clinic were seen leaving in disappointment.
However, the Chief Medical Director of UUTH, Prof EmemAbasi Bassey while responding to our reporter claimed he had reached an agreement with resident doctors to run emergency services, even though they were still on strike.
He added that though ’emergency’ has categories they would try their best to ensure that life-threatening cases are attended to immediately.
Prof. Bassey said the hospital usually looks deserted on weekends especially during public holidays denouncing the insinuation that no medical officer was seen because of strict adherence to the strike action.
Expressing hope that the strike would soon be called off, Prof. Bassey urged the resident doctors to also compromise a little while negotiations are ongoing with the government, noting that some of the demands therein may not be reached in a short term.
According to him, “on our own, we are still keeping emergency services running, that is the arrangement I reached with the resident doctors. Consultants are still working, though they still need assistance from other officers because they cannot work alone.
“You know that once you start a strike, it might take a little time to be called off especially when it falls on a weekend and public holiday as well. One thing with NARD is that their strikes start with a congress and they need to have another congress to call it off.
“On the demands made by NARD, I saw a whole lot of them and don’t know how realistic some of them are in a short term. For me, I will plead that the doctors also shift grounds a little while negotiation continues. It is not possible to meet all demands at the same time and government on its own should implement some of its promises.”