The Anambra State government has reacted to the strike by resident doctors at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka.
In a statement by Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, the government says that it was aware that the said doctors this morning began “an indefinite warning strike to press for an increase in salary”.
“This strike is a profound disservice to the people of Anambra State. Governor Willie Obiano did promise a review of their salary to make it more competitive. However, in view of the ongoing national effort at salary review across the board, the Anambra State government explained to the resident doctors that it would be untidy to review their salary alone last month, only to do another review for them once the salary review of other public servants is concluded. This situation was well conveyed to the doctors through the Honourable Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Akabuike,” explains the statement.
It states further that more than any other group of Ndi Anambra, the resident doctors at the state teaching hospital should exhibit great understanding of what the present administration’s commitment to the growth of the hospital and its workforce.
For instance, the statement points out, the teaching hospital could not be accredited by the Medical and Dental Registration Council of Nigeria, thus making the undergraduate medical students stay in school for a whole eight years without obtaining the basic medical degree and without any hope of obtaining the licence.
“Things, however, changed when Chief Willie Obiano was elected governor, and he immediately went out of his way to provide sufficient funds to the teaching hospital to procure all necessary equipment and regents and hire more qualified staff as well as motivate the staff members and consultants in a special way.
“The teaching hospital was quickly accredited by the Medical and Dental Registration Council of Nigeria, and it produced its first set of medical doctors. Governor Obiano gave automatic employment to all the new doctors. He provided greater funds which were so judiciously utilised that the same hospital, which could not graduate young doctors just a few years ago, was approved for training of medical consultants. Some of the graduates of the medical school are today Resident Doctors in the teaching hospital, and they are unbelievably among the striking doctors!”
Medicine, the statement says, is a great vocation and like other care providers, medical doctors have throughout world history been recognised as a group whose members lay down their lives for the benefit of humanity. It adds that the Nigerian law recognises them to be on essential service, therefore, they are, like police officers and soldiers, precluded from going on strike.
“If any group of workers in Nigeria must embark on industrial action, there are laid down procedures which must be followed. There is, unfortunately, no indication that the Association of Resident Doctors at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital followed due process on embarking on the ongoing strike. Anambra is a state governed by law and due process, and our people expect all individuals and organisations in our midst to show exemplary behaviour in all things, in keeping with the culture of excellence evolving in Anambra State.
“Our state has in the last few years become famous for unprecedented social harmony. The level of industrial harmony in the state is unrivalled in the whole country. Ndi Anambra never imagined that the excellent harmonious industrial relations would be shattered by Resident Doctors at our teaching hospital. Governor Obiano has gone out of his way to raise the standards of the hospital and improve the lot of the people who work and study there like the Resident Doctors,” the statement says.
While reminding the doctors that the casualties of their ongoing strike are not Anambra State government officers but numerous patients at the state teaching hospital, it says most especially the downtrodden who cannot afford to go to private hospitals for specialist treatment.
“In the name of the people of Anambra State, we appeal to the Association of Resident Doctors at Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Awka, to return to work immediately. We appeal to the doctors in the name of the Hippocratic Oath they have taken to save life to continue to work for the common good. We appeal to the doctors to give the Anambra State Government time to conclude essential work on the new national minimum wage before it could start paying Resident Doctors a new and separate salary structure”.