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Lagos State, doctors head for showdown over pay

The most recent indicator of this crisis which may end up resulting in denying Lagosians access to public health care in the state was the 21 day ultimatum notice given to the state government by the Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) backed the Medical Guild.
The doctors are demanding immediate payment of their April and May 2012 salaries, as well as August and September 2014 outstanding while the state government has categorically stated that it’s not owing the doctors due to application of no work no pay policy for those periods.
The doctors which threatened to withdraw their services from all state hospital facilities have embarked on series of industrial action in the last two to three years due to both parties inability to find a common ground of resolving issues.
Pay disputes have always been an unresolved issue between the state government and the Lagos doctors to the extent that government had to controversially sacked about 788 doctors in 2012 before they were later recalled.
The doctors were sacked for embarking on strike action which lasted for seven weeks over state government refusal to implement agreement in the issue of Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
316  of the affected doctors then  were working with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LASUTH while the remaining 472 were from other hospitals in the state.
But, Lagos State government through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba had in 2013 appealed to doctors in its public health sector not to join a proposed nationwide strike called then by the National Medical Association (NMA).
Pleading with the doctors to consider the interests of the people of Lagos and their medical ethics and that industrial action by doctors would bring untold hardship to the people and could result in avoidable death of patients.
He warned them that the state government would not hesitate to apply the law on erring officers to protect the interest of innocent citizens and that whatever disagreement NMA had against the Federal Government should not be extended to Lagos State government.
Currently, besides their alleged withheld salaries, the doctors also said that the state government had allegedly continued to employ doctors on casual basis for more than two years and failed to employ resident doctors at LASUTH.  “A situation they said threatens to annihilate medical education and specialist training in the tertiary institution soonest.
The President National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), LASUTH, Dr. Maruf Abdulsalam said the doctors have dialogued enough with the state government with no positive response.
He said they were still in dialogue with Lagos government, but as of now. There is no positive response from the government despite all our agitation, appeals and protest but what we must be seen as to be doing it to bring some of these issues into public domain so that eventually when this matters lead to strike action as they will always lead to people will not say the doctors just woke up one morning and start the strike. Already we are dialoguing with them and appealing with them but till date there is no positive response. The only response we have gotten from them is a letter stating the Lagos State government policy of ‘no work no pay.”
According to him, the state government is using non participation of doctors in the curtailment of Ebola virus outbreak as blackmail because despite being on strike, the doctor took part in the management of the scourge.
He said, “Well, the blackmail about the Ebola outbreak first of all, it was unfortunate that the time late Patrick Sawyer came to Nigeria and we had the Ebola Virus disease which took everybody by storm however, what we tell people is that member of the Nigerian Medical Association participated in the management of the Ebola virus scourge at various level there was a national directive from NMA that Ebola Response Committee should be formed and I was part of that committee for LASUTH so are my colleagues in LUTH and Igbobi and in any case.”
Abdulsalam explained that the total number of Ebola case in Lagos State were 20 which you didnt need more than 10 doctors to treat or take care of.
He said, “The 20 Ebola patients and our doctors did volunteer. So, all doctors in Lagos State cannot treat 20 Ebola patients you only need not more than 10 and it is another strategy of cutting the spread of the virus because luckily, if we were not on strike when Sawyer came to Lagos it would have been a different story. So, it was another strategy of   curtailing the spread of the virus by limiting the number of medical personnel who would be exposed to patients.”
The current scenario however is an omen of another groaning experience for people in Lagos State now that the state government is insisting not owing the doctors and they bent on getting those salaries.
Each time the doctors go on strike, people seeking medical care have no choice than to go to private facilities which are usually unaffordable to most individuals.
State owned hospitals provide medical service to a large proportion of over 18million people in Lagos with general hospitals spanned across the state local government areas with only availability of just one federal medical centre in Ebute-meta and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital ( LUTH), Idi-Araba as few federal government medical facilities in the state.
Already,  federal health workers, including those in Lagos State, under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) are currently on a three-month-old strike which has paralysed federal hospitals and health centres across the country.
The strike was called by JOHESU to protest the federal government’s alleged non-implementation of agreements reached with the union on reforms in the health sector.
With this, it is expected that the government rather finds a way to avoid this forthcoming showdown threatened by the doctors for strike action after one week of the expiration of the 21 day ultimatum.
Avoiding this looming crisis therefore becomes imperative according to experts in the interest of the general public who are benefitting from the essential services in the sector and also to guide against avoidable deaths and compilications people my experience due to such strike.

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