By: Felix Ikpotor
Resident Doctors at University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH, have said they are not part of the ongoing nationwide strike called by its national body..
President, Association of Resident Doctors in UPTH, Dr Ameh Samuel Ameh, who made this known to newsmen on Monday, said the strike will not be in the best interest of Rivers people, as doctors are most needed now in the fight against COVID 19 pandemic.
He however, called on the federal and state governments and other stakeholders to play their roles by responding to the demands of the Nigerian doctors, in order to avert a crisis in the health sector.
“Concerning the nationwide strike, we have spoken to the stakeholders including the newly elected President of Nigeria Medical Association NMA, other executives of the national body, and NMA state chapter of our stand.
“We have looked at the issue of the present strike holistically and we have decided that for now, we will not be embarking on the nationwide strike as a local chapter. It has to do with the fact that we understand that NMA as a body are currently negotiating with the federal government on modalities to actualize some of the demands.
“Also, the fact that we recognize the peculiarities of the situation in UPTH as well as the country at large, because of the COVID 19 pandemic and the situation it has created, we have realized that health workers, not just doctors are playing an essential role in helping to stem the tide of the COVID 19 and to reduce the direct impact of COVID 19 on all patients across the country.
“The demands made by the Association of Resident Doctors, we understand them and we fully agree with them, but at this period in time, we have realized that it would not be in the best interest of the general public especially those in Rivers State should we embark on strike.
“We also note our own peculiarities as Association, and we appreciate the efforts made by the Hospital Management, federal and Rivers State, NCDC to mitigate some of the impacts on COVID 19 patients. We are aware that the impact of COVID 19 is non-selective because we have patients who are health workers.
“We have our health workers working to care for patients at the testing, isolation and treatment Center, this shows the impact of COVID 19 on doctors in Nigeria and what we hope to achieve.
“We understand that this fight cannot be fought alone, for health personnel to stake their lives and that of families to fight COVID 19, then, federal and state government should understand that health workers are paying the ultimate price in the health sector and their demands must be met.
“Federal government must play their own role in ensuring health workers get a fair deal. Health workers are making lots of sacrifices, some have paid the ultimate price, some have lost their lives, so, when health workers demand for basic things such as hazard allowance, insurance policies, it should be taking with all seriousness”
He further urged the federal government to do the needful by providing more personal protective equipment PPE’s, employ more health personnel to relieve the workload burden on health workers.
“The health sector in Nigeria right now is not in a perfect state, we have colleagues that are constantly leaving the country because of poor enumeration, as colleagues leave the number decreases, and as the number decreases it increases the pressure on health workers available who are overstretched.
“Clearly speaking, we need more hands. It is not just the local chapter issue, it cut across the nation, we need PPEs, these are basic things we should not be discussing about. Health workers make use lots of consumables in attending to patients, so we need PPEs’ steady supplies”
Earlier, Chief Medical Director, CMD, Prof Henry Arinze Ugboma said he is worried that doctors across the country are embarking on a national strikes now that the pandemic is at our door steps
Ugboma said the umbrella body ARD, UPTH is not embarking on the strike as they care for human lives in the hospital.
Prof Ugboma said over 15 health workers had contracted the virus in the hospital even as the hospital is embarking on expansion for more 20 bed spaces f as it beds are filled with patients.
He added that three children had been infected while nineteen persons have died.
“As a health worker, no body will accept downing tools now as the nation is now facing economic downturn due to mass impact by COVID-19 pandemic in the country” he said.
He noted that ARD, UPTH is happy with the management and staff of the hospital.
NARD had Sunday night ordered a national strike beginning from Monday.
It listed its demands as provision of grossly inadequate appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for all health care workers; reversal of the disengagement of all 26 resident doctors in Jos University Teaching Hospital, and the payment of all salaries owed them.
Others are implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all federal and state hospitals and pay parity among doctors of equal cadre; implementation of the revised hazard allowance and payment of the COVID-19 inducement allowance as agreed with the government.
NARD is also demanding the provision of funding for Medical Residency Training in the 2021 Appropriation bill and payment of all arrears owed its members in tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage.