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HELP! ONABANJO VARSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL COLLAPSING

By NBF News

A first time visitor to the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Ogun State, needs no one to tell him that all is not well with the medical institution. It starts from the neon-sign board which welcomes visitors to the hospital. It is in disarray. Only four alphabets remain of the letters composing the names of the institution.

Aside from this public relations lapses, the resident doctors in the health facility are also up in arms with the state government over poor conditions of service. Indeed, no fewer than 50 of them have resigned their appointments. Spearheading the onslaught on the government is Dr. Adeniyi Ogundipe, the branch president of the doctors association. He said the hospital was nothing but a shadow of itself, alleging that the management of the institution had shirked in its responsibilities.

At the time this interview was conducted, members of the association had commenced an indefinite strike. Ogundipe told Daily Sun they had issues with the government: 'We initially had a two-week warning strike for which we hoped that the issues would be resolved. As I am talking to you now, none of the issues had been addressed. We had a pending issue on account of irregular payment of salaries to us. You may not believe it, sometimes our salaries take up to two months to be paid and it seemed as if we are taking one more salary to pay for two months.

'The problem is that we do not know when we are going to receive June salary, may be in August, September or even October, we do not know. When we ask questions, what they tell us is that they are going to pay it. Unfortunately, there had been some pending issues that had been there for the past three years.

'There was a time government asked members of our association to come and get land allocated to them. That was sometime in July 2007. Some of our members paid for 14 parcels of land, but ironically, as I am speaking with you, we have not seen the land nor money. We have been asking them questions with no answers.

'The other thing is the issue of contributory pension scheme. They started it in January 2008. Some parts of our salaries are being taken to be paid into this retirement scheme and then the government is supposed to pay their own part. Today, we have over 30 months and the state government has not paid a kobo into our retirement saving acocunts. We have been asking questions and they should understand the fact that this money is meant for our future. That is what we are going to retire on and that means that our future is bleak.

'Salary arrears.
The Ogun State Government has delayed its implementation, giving rise to a situation whereby we are being owed 17 months arrears. We have been asking for this for several years now and not a single kobo has been paid to us. Then, late last year, the Federal Government signed the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS), into law and the implementation was supposed to have started immediately as the circular was released.

The payment of 17months of Consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Scale (CONTISS) arrears, irregular power supply in the hospital are also part of our bone of contention.

'We expected that the management and government would act swiftly on this, but they told us that they would implement once the Federal Government starts the implementation. The Federal Government started the implementation in June, but as at today, we have not started. It is like the management and government are reneging on their promises.

'We also have some constraints here, because this is a teaching hospital, there is the issue of training of doctors to become specialists and consultants. The situation now is that many consultants and other specialists are leaving this institution in droves. When they start leaving who will be left to train the people behind?

'The situation is so bad that even alternatives that should not be considered are being considered. We are beginning to consider them, we are beginning to get short staffed. We are looking at all these things and we are making fervent prayers to the citizens of Ogun State to appeal to the state government, that they should not allow this hospital die.

'The situation in the hospital currently is like we are moving backward. The things we have been doing in the past, we cannot do them again. The new things that we should be doing we are not doing them. Ironically, this is the first state teaching hospital in this country. Other state teaching hospitals have all overtaken us.

'We are appealing to those in authority and citizens of Ogun State to help us stop the imminent collapse of this hospital. I also want to add that on the issue of (CONTISS), the national body has taken a bold step and has given the government ultimatum that if any of the members in any part of the country is not paid the CONTISS, there may be a nationwide strike beginning August 9.

'The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in the state has also issued its own ultimatum giving a 21-day ultimatum to implement the medical salary scheme. If that is not done, the NMA will not be able to guarantee industrial peace. I mean we are looking at a situation whereby technically, the whole of the health care sector in the state will be shut down in the state, local and federal as well as private establishments. We are praying sincerely that it does not come to pass, but it lies on the state government to act very fast.

'We have explored all avenues to let both the state government and management see reasons, but it appears they are not yielding the desired results. The situation is that bad that the only thing we do in critical condition is to make reference to other well equipped tertiary health institutions in the country, particularly in the neighbouring states.

'When we have a case and the personnel is not available, what we do is to resort to the option of referring patients to the neighbouring teaching hospitals like the University College Hospital UCH), Ibadan and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where specialists are available. 'Over 50 doctors have resigned. Another 30 are on the waiting list or on their way out of this hospital. This cuts across all cadres of doctors. We have a critical situation on our hand.

'This hospital caters for accidents victims on the ever busy Lagos-Ibadan and Sagamu-Benin expressways. They may not necessarily be citizens of Ogun State. Services and training are being jeopardized. We have started walking backwards.'