Consultants Overwhelmed as Resident Doctors’ Strike Persists

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•More relatives evacuate patients to private hospitals

Our Correspondents

Consultants have taken over the provision of skeletal services to patients following the ongoing strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which enters the fifth day today.
Relatives have also intensified the evacuation of patients to private hospitals, THISDAY has learnt.

When THISDAY visited the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi and Federal Medical Centre in Azare, only very senior physicians and nurses were attending to patients.

Bauchi State branch Chairman of NARD, Dr. Muhammad Nur Algazali, said members of the union had withdrawn their services in compliance with the directive of the national body of the union.
“We are still on strike in line with the directives of the national body. We cannot do otherwise. None of our members is rendering any service until the issues are resolved and the industrial action called off by the national body,” he stated.

The Chief Medical Director of ATBUTH, Bauchi, Dr. Jibrin Yusuf Bara, however, told THISDAY that “for now, we have mobilised all our consultants who are rendering services to the patients, assisted by the few house medical workers we have around to keep the situation under control.

“Before the strike commenced, we made sure that patients in all the medical and surgical wards who did not need much medical attention as they were getting set for discharge were allowed to go home while only a few who still needed close attention were allowed to remain behind.”

The Chief Medical Director of FMC, Azare, Dr. Abdullahi Ibrahim, also told THISDAY that the hospital could no longer run the normal 18 hours outpatient and other services because of the strike.
“Though we have consultants, medical officers and other health workers on the ground to provide services to patients, the services of the resident doctors are greatly missed and we hope that the issue will be resolved very soon,” he added.

Activities at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, (ABUTH), Zaria; Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital; the National Eye Centre and National Ear Care Centre, all in Kaduna, have also been paralysed following the ongoing strike.

The hospitals are owned by the federal government.
Most of the patients in the hospitals have either relocated to private hospitals or the state government hospitals, while the rest were being attended to by consultants.
According to the Chairman, Kaduna State branch of NARD, Dr. Umar Ikara, doctors in state government- owned hospitals did not join the strike, because the issues at the federal and state levels were not the same.

Doctors at the Barau Dikko Specialists Hospital and Yusuf Dantsoho Hospital, in the metropolis, were also attending to patients.
But at the National Ear Care Centre, Kaduna, consultants were carrying out skeletal services by attending to patients.

At the National Ear Centre, patients had to leave as the doctors also joined the strike.
Chairman of NARD at the Ear Care Centre, Dr. Magaji Auwal, told THISDAY that the hospital joined the indefinite strike as directed by the national secretariat of NARD.
Activities at government-owned hospitals in Katsina State were also paralysed following the indefinite strike by NARD.

When THISDAY visited some of the hospitals, it was observed that there was full compliance with the strike directive as resident doctors stayed away from work.

When THISDAY visited Federal Medical Centre (FMC), National Obstetric Fistula Centre, Babbar Ruga, General Ahmadi Rimi Orthopaedic Hospital, Katsina General Hospital, all within the Katsina metropolis, most patients had vacated their beds, saying they were not sure of proper healthcare.
The President, Association of Resident Doctors, FMC chapter, Dr. Salihu Boladale, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that a full compliance with the strike order by doctors was being enforced.
He added that the doctors would not attend to cases, including emergencies.

He said: “If this strike persisted beyond Tuesday, all hospitals would be closed because there is nothing to do again. And mind you, resident doctors constitute 90 per cent of doctors’ workforce.”
Patients were also groaning at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Ilorin, due to the national strike.

The UITH branch Chairman of NARD, Dr. Badmus Habeeb, said the doctors had joined the national strike in obedience to the national association of the union over issues of salaries, allowances and poor working condition.

Also speaking on the strike, the Chairman of the UITH branch of the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Mr.0 Olawumi Olutunde, said: “Of course, the strike would affect some services, because the doctors are the health experts really doing the work. The consultants are just there to supervise and they are not always around like the doctors.
“That services are already paralysed now.”

However, a visit by THISDAY to the hospital on Saturday showed that families of the patients have begun to evacuate them to private hospitals in Ilorin.
The chairman of NARD at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr. Nalda Nanfal, has also confirmed that his branch had joined the nationwide strike.

However, the consultants and other health workers have filled in the gap.
Reacting to the strike, the Public Relations Officer of JUTH, Mrs. Bridget Omini, confirmed that the consultants and other health workers were currently offering skeletal services as the strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) enters the fifth day today, close the gap.
At the Mallam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and Dala Orthopedic Hospital in Kano, patients were forced to go to private hospitals, while others engaged doctors for home services.

NARD officials at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, who spoke under anonymity, said 75 per cent of the doctors were members of the union and were on strike.
Also relatives of patients at Usman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH ), Sokoto who are well to do have resorted to seeking medical attention at private hospitals.

Speaking with THISDAY at the weekend, the Chairman of NARD, UDUTH branch, Dr. Sifiyanu Umar Yabo, said his members complied with the directive from the national headquarters by embarking on the strike.
According to him, till the federal government meets their demands, they will not call off the strike.

Yabo stated that as part of the compliance, they had handed over the patients to consultants.
He added that the ratio of consultants to resident doctors in the hospital is 20:80 per cent.
Yabo added that most works in the hospital were being done by resident doctors and there is no way consultants would cope with the pressure arising from the high number of patients in the hospital.
He said services rendered by consultants were skeletal considering their numbers.
Medical services have also been paralysed at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, following the nationwide strike.

THISDAY learnt that before the strike, which took effect from April 1, services at the hospital were below 40 per cent due to the partial renovation of some of the facilities.
A source at the hospital told THISDAY that many patients were advised to seek help in private hospitals by consultants, who were overwhelmed by work.

The ARD President, UCH chapter, Dr. Temitope Hussain, while speaking on the strike, said the management of the hospital reached out to the association for its members to offer skeletal services, stating, however, that the association insisted on a total and indefinite strike to press home its demands.

The strike also paralysed activities at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
This prompted relatives of patients at the hospital seek medical attention elsewhere for their loved ones.
Speaking to THISDAY on the phone, the chairman of NARD, University of Benin (UBTH), Dr. E. Ofuani, said the industrial action was total.

When THISDAY visited some federal hospitals in Enugu State, including the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) and the National Orthopedic Hospital, patients were seen with only nurses attending to them.
The hospital looked deserted as most patients had been discharged before the commencement of the indefinite strike.

The same situation was observed at the National Orthopedic Hospital, Enugu.
President of NARD at the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Dr. China Edoga, told THISDAY that the branch met and decided to join the national body on the strike.
Patients who visited the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), Akwa Ibom State, were not attended to due to the strike.

However, the strike did not paralyse much activities at the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, Adamawa State, because the medical centre had engaged the assistance of medical consultants to bridge the gap.

When THISDAY visited the hospital, consultants were seen attending to patients and emergencies cases.
The Chairman of NARD in the state, Dr. Bartholomew Murey, said the strike would continue until government meet their demands.
He said there were consultants attending to emergency issues and patients but it would not be enough.

At the Federal Medical Centre in Abuja, the outpatient department was almost empty with few people queuing to register for medical treatment.
When THISDAY asked one of the staff who pleaded anornimity the situation of things, she said NARD members joined their colleagues on the strike.

However, she said the hospital had put up measures to contain the impact.
She added that all the consultants and senior physicians have been posted to attend to patients and conduct ward rounds.
According to her, doctors on leave have been recalled to join others to ensure that the hospital remains fully operational.

It was the same thing at the General Hospital in Kubwa, where consultants have been assigned to attend to accident and emergency cases.
THISDAY gathered that some patients were being asked to seek treatment at private clinics since the consultants are giving more attention to serious cases and patients on admission.

The Chairman of the National Hospital, Abuja chapter of NARD, Dr. Akanimo Onaolapo Ebong, told THISDAY that the level of compliance was 100 per cent.
He added that all the members of NARD in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have withdrawn their services as directed by the leadership of the association.

When THISDAY sought to know if the doctors were considering suspending the strike following promises made by the government to pay their arrears of salaries and allowances, the National President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said the strike would continue.
“As far as we are concerned, the strike continues. We will call it off as soon as government implements our agreement and pay arrears of salaries and allowances. As at today (Saturday) we have not received any payment, ” he said.