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Strike: Lagos Government Threatens Doctors

Source: huhuonline.com
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The Lagos State Government on Friday threatened doctors in the state with sanction should they join their counterparts in the proposed national strike by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). At the same time, the State Assembly pleaded with doctors in the state not to join others in the industrial action.

However, the doctors gave the government the impression that they are powerless and would await the outcome of the meeting by the national leadership of the body in Abuja on Monday.

While the Lagos State Government threatened the doctors through a statement issued by the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Lateef Ibirogba, the Assembly met with the state executive of the union, pleading with them to adopt a strategy that would enable them continue with their jobs while the proposed strike takes effect. 

According to the commissioner, previous industrial actions had caused untold suffering, injury and death to innocent patients. He therefore warned that the state government would not hesitate to apply the law on erring officers to protect the interest of innocent citizens. He also warned that whatever disagreement NMA had against the Federal Government should not be extended to the Lagos State Government.

Part of the sanction, according to the commissioner, could come in the form of 'a no-work-no-pay' policy against the doctors who refuse to report at their duty posts at the scheduled time.

'The issues the national body of NMA has with Federal Government should be ironed out with the Federal Government without allowing it to affect Lagosians', Ibirogba said.

'This is contrary to Sections 118, 209 and 210 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State. It provides that it is an offence to maliciously break a contract of service knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the probable consequence of doing so will endanger human life or seriously endanger public health.

'Any employee who abandons his duty post without reasonable cause will be taken to have repudiated his contract of employment. Such an employee will be held fully liable for the consequences of his or her actions'.

He urged the doctors to consider the interests of the people of the State and their medical ethics noting that any industrial action by doctors would bring untold hardship to the people resulting in avoidable death of patients.

He reminded the doctors that their job does not permit them to embark on strike because of the consequence of the action on the people they are supposed to serve. According to the statement, 'workers in the health sector are statutorily classified as offering essential services and there are laid-down process and procedures before embarking on such action'.

He said the state government had nothing to do with the issues the national body of the union had with the Federal Government, as the state government had been implementing infrastructure development and capacity building in its health sector for effective service delivery by the doctors.

Also a team from the State House of Assembly on Friday held a crucial meeting with the union concerning the proposed strike action. Addressing the medical practitioners, Leader of the House, Hon. Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye appealed to the association to find a way of resolving the pressing issue without resulting to total strike that would affect the lives of Lagos residents.

Hon. Adeyeye pleaded that 'NMA should have a rethink in resort the matter that would not affect the people of the State'. He further said that the state government cannot afford to lose any patient at a crucial time when it has committed huge amount of money to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of hospitals in the state.

He used the forum to call on the Federal Government to listen to the plights of the association with a view to finding solution to their problems. 'We cannot afford another strike in the health sector.  One minute of strike in the health sector by whatever body can be very disastrous to the state', he said.

The lawmaker informed the gathering that the House of Assembly was considering a law that would put a stop to any strike, as 'the ripple effect of strike is greater in Lagos as the population in Lagos State cannot be compared with that of others in West Africa sub region'.

In his submission, Chairman Committee on Health services, Hon. Suuru Avoseh charged the Lagos NMA and the government representatives to have a cordial relationship to factor out how best to resolve their differences. 'We should join hands together to do everything humanly possible to ensure that our hospitals are not shut for patients', he said.

He therefore proposed that regular meetings should be held between the House, medical professionals and government to address major challenges facing the medical profession, and the health sector in particular.

Earlier, Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State branch, Mr. Francis Faduyile said poor funding and remuneration of doctors are some of the problems. He however said that the National Executive Council of the NMA would meet in Abuja on Saturday and the outcome of the meeting would determine if they would join the strike action.

The NMA had on December 22, 2013 directed its members to commence a nationwide strike from 8am on January 6, if government failed to satisfactorily meet its demands. This, they said, was in protest against poor working conditions, inadequate funding and poor infrastructure in the nation's health sector.