By Omon-Julius Onabu
Members of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Asaba, Delta State, yesterday announced the withdrawal of their services, indefinitely, in protest against alleged incessant harassment by the police and other security personnel under the guise of enforcing the stay-at-home directive of the state government.
The lockdown was declared over a week ago by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, as a means of checking the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but enforcing it has become increasingly difficult with security operatives openly abusing the process through extortion and harassment of those on essential duties, exempted from the movement restriction order.
President of the ARD, Asaba FMC chapter, Dr. Osifo Patrick Nwabunor told newsmen in Asaba that since the lockdown started on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, health workers had been consistently harassed allegedly by the police even when they present valid means of identification as essential service providers.
Nwabunor claimed that the harassment reached unbearable levels on Thursday when a doctor who was rushing to Okpanam for an emergency was stopped and harassed, saying other colleagues who came to his rescue were teargassed.
Consequently, the resident doctors would embark on what he termed “total shutdown of our services indefinitely, until our security is guaranteed,” he declared.
Nwabunor said, “These are challenging times in view of the COVID-19, but if our safety is not guaranteed, we will maintain the total shutdown of our services,” he stated.
However, the doctors gave three conditions for a review of their decision: that no health worker should be harassed when he/she presents a valid means of identification; that items destroyed during the Okpanam issue should be replaced; and, that adequate security should be provided within the confines of the hospital.
Nwabunor also raised the alarm about the paucity of protective kits for frontline health workers across both federal and state hospitals, appealing to the relevant authorities to provide the necessary kits and “increase the hazard allowance for frontline care givers”.