Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Doctors in Bayelsa State on Tuesday vowed to embark on a ‘total and indefinite’ strike from June 27 to protest the government’s inability to pay their salaries for about five months.
The doctors under the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Bayelsa State branch, also apologised to the patients in various hospitals in the state for the hardship the industrial action would cause them, noting that they could no longer work without remuneration.
Chairman of the NMA in the state, Dr Israel Jeremiah, who spoke at the association’s secretariat in Yenagoa, particularly expressed sadness that House Officers, whom he described as the youngest and most vulnerable members of the medical profession, were undergoing untold pains.
The body noted that the ongoing non-payment of salaries, even to civil servants in the state had resulted in reduced hospital attendance and inability of patients to buy drugs, arguing that residents have resorted to patronising quacks.
“Despite the untold hardship occasioned by this development, our members have kept faith with our Hippocratic Oath, continued to render services and ensured that Bayelsa people get the needed healthcare.
“The continued non-payment of salaries has adversely affected healthcare delivery in the state. Hospital attendance has markedly reduced; patients can no longer procure drugs, pay for tests or pay their bills on discharge from the hospital.
“The consequences are that Bayelsa people will resort to self-treatment, patronise quacks and in the worst case scenario opt to die at home,’’ Dr Jeremiah said.
The doctors further contended that the refusal of the government to pay salaries was a ready template for anti-social upheaval, psychiatric manifestations, especially depression, suicide, self-denial, self-pity robbery and violence.
Flanked by other members of the Executive of the NMA in the state, the association’s chairman noted that after a thorough analysis of the situation, doctors in the state would as from the date, join three other affiliates to embark on the industrial action.
The NMA aligned with the state branch of the National Association of Government, General, Medical and Dental Practitioners(NAGGMDP), Association of Resident Doctors, Niger Delta University teaching Hospital, which had already notified the government of a strike action.
Aside the listed associations, the NMA said that the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, NDUTH, Okolobiri has also written to the Bayelsa State government, issuing a 21-day ultimatum if their salaries are not paid.
The doctors added that they were dismayed that the NMA in the state was not invited to the negotiation between the organised labour and the Bayelsa State Government .
“Since we are not part of Labour, (Nigeria Labour Congress), and the trade Union Congress (TUC), the agreement between labour and the government is not binding on us,’’ the NMA said.
The body refuted reports by the NLC and TUC in the state, alleging that House Officers had been paid their January salaries, noting that doctors have not have not been paid their January and even subsequent months’ salaries.
The NMA Bayelsa, posits that one has to be alive and have the requisite financial wherewithal to execute his job properly. The present situation negates that,’’ the body argued.
While calling for the full payment of outstanding salaries, the NMA dissociated itself from an agreement with organised labour that accepted 50 per cent payment.
“If the issues are not resolved, the listed affiliates will embark on a total and indefinite strike action. Furthermore, even doctors at the Federal Medical Centre and private doctors will be forced to join the strike,’’ the NMA warned.
The body also called on the all well-meaning people, including politicians, traditional rulers and opinion leaders in the state to prevail on the government to do the needful to ‘avert the impending disaster.’