Lagos sacks 788 striking doctors
LAGOS — Lagos State Government yesterday 788 doctors in its employment following what it described as illegal strike embarked upon by the doctors since April 16 2012.
The state government in a statement signed by the Head of Service, Mr Adesegun Ogunlewe also announced the employment of 373 doctors for immediate deployment in the public hospitals while recruitment continues.
According to the statement the striking doctors were sacked following their refusal to answer to queries to explain why they were absent from work without leave and without the due observance of the rules and regulations guiding strikes and industrial actions in the State’s Public Service
According to the statement, 316 doctors were working with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital while the remaining 472 were from other hospitals in the State.
Explaining the acts leading to the sack of the doctors, the statement declared, “Resulting from the contemptible act of the Medical Doctors LASUTH Board and HSC, the two bodies that appointed them in line with subsisting statutes, served those who were ‘Absent without Leave’ (AWOL) with queries”, adding that while a handful of them responded, majority of the doctors shunned the query.
The Statement maintained that the strike came as a rude shock to the State Government “since the leadership of the Medical Guild still met during the week preceding the illegal strike with top Government officials in charge of Health and establishment sectors”.
The Statement explained further that in order to ensure that the healthcare delivery service of the State continues to function for the benefit of the people, the State Government has placed advertisement in some national dailies seeking applications from suitably qualified Medical Doctors and Consultants/Specialists desirous of working with the Government adding that the response has been overwhelming.
On what made the strike illegal, the statement noted, among other things, that the doctors only gave the State Government 24 hours notice “as against the time-tested and statute-bound processes and procedures for declaration of industrial disputes”.
NMA threatens to shut down health services
But in swift reaction to the development, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has threatened to shut down health services in Lagos if government fails to retract its decision after a proposed meeting with the State government within 24 hours.
It was gathered that each doctor was served a dismissal letter dated Friday, May 4, 2012. In the letter signed by the various Chief Medical Directors, the state government declared that the doctors were sacked based on the recommendation of the Personnel Management Board, PMB, (Disciplinary committee) following the failure of the striking doctors to respond to the queries as well as their failure to appear before the Board.
One of the letters Tagged: “Dismissal from Services” and signed by the Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Professor David Oke, reads: This is to inform you that at the Board’s PMB (disciplinary committee) meetings which held between Tuesday 24th and Thursday 26 April 2012, a case of misconduct to wit absence from duty without leave or reasonable cause between Wednesday 11th and Friday, 13th April 2012, was established against you.
“You are also found guilty of insubordination for failure to respond to lawful queries issued to you. The committee therefore recommended your dismissal from service. In accordance with the provisions of the civil service rule, Nos: 04502,04507 & 04508, the board has approved your dismissal. Therefore, I hereby convey your dismissal from Lagos State service with effect from Friday 4th may 2012.? You are by this letter advised to hand over all government properties in your possessions to the office of Chief Medical Director of Lagos State University.”
In swift reaction to the sack letter, Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote described it as a confirmation of the government’s insensitivity and insincerity to resolve the issue on ground.
Odusote, while explaining that the Guild had handed the case to the Nigerian Medical Association NMA for further action, condemned the state government action, describing it as “insincerity on the part of the state government.”
Odusote, who disclosed that about 90 per cent of the doctors who participated in the on going indefinite strike have been sacked said they have no regret.
Medical Guild takes case to NMA
“We have handed over the matter to the Nigeria Medical Association. They will decide on what to do. We met with them on Saturday at the instance of the House of Assembly. At the end of that meeting, the Commissioner told us that they are not changing their minds on what they want to pay that it is a government policy. And he kept to that. Both the House of Assembly and the Commissioner of Health kept quiet on the issues of queries and that became a soft point.
“I became disappointed with the House of Assembly, because they called us to a meeting to mediate and we reported to them that these are the immediate cause of the indefinite strike and then in their discussion, they just kept quiet that is to say that the meeting was called in bad faith.
“And that is why we are declaring lack of confidence in the house of Assembly to resolve this issue because they have demonstrated partisanship. So they are not confident to wade into the matter.?? Our actions were justified. These letters were signed before we even held that meeting.
On the appointment of new doctors, He said: “I cannot rule that out . I wouldn’t do that. Because a Yoruba culture said that the same whip that was used on the senior wife is also hanging on some where and it will also be used for the second wife.
“Everybody who knows that should consider that before taking up jobs at this material time. But the NMA is going to address that. I can assure you that the medical profession will never die because it has been in existence before any of these politicians were born. Medical profession came about because there was a need and that will continue to drive the profession.
“The patient should ask the government of their fate because government knew that the patients are dying and they sacked over 1,000 doctors at a sweep. The same patients pay heavy tax to the government to protect their lives and their properties that is the first call of any government. If this government cannot do that, people should hold them responsible for that.
Describing the actions of government, he said: “How will describe their action, to me I think is a wrong step at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.? Any Government that has the interest of its people at heart wouldn’t do what they have done?
Reacting to the Minister’s advise on strike, he said. “People should know when to generalize issues.???? We were forced into this strike and anybody who look from afar is either oblivious of the fact or just want to play to the gallery.
Government has published what they say they are paying, how much is N800,000 for a person who has served for 35 years? I can tell you there are over 1200 doctors involved in this issue. If they are going to live to their words, we might just say that they have sacked over 1200 doctors. Those left can’t be more than 60 – 80, these are doctors that were on leave.
“This just confirms what we have been saying that our government is insincere. This just goes to say that our government is shedding crocodile tears by saying people are dying,should doctors go back to work. Meanwhile they have already sacked the doctors since Friday last week. That doctors should leave the hospitals.”
We are not deceived
“So who are they deceiving? Doctors, I don’t think so. No, because since we declared indefinite strike, we had already known that this was what they were going to do. We are not being deceived but the masses.? It is left for the masses to decide on what they will do.”
He added that the state government called the doctors for a meeting on Saturday whereas they had signed their sack letter a day before. He also flayed the House of Assembly passing a vote of no confidence in the bid to resolve the issue. “The meeting held on Saturday at the House of Assembly and they House members showed partisan on the issue.”
Also reacting to the sack shortly after an emergency congress in Lagos, the State Chairman of NMA, Dr Temiye Edamisan described the government action as draconian and undemocratic and most obscene by any government.
“We are not in a military regime we understand it but share the toga of military. They are still behaving as if they are in military. If they do this to the doctors and they survive, they will do it to the other workers in the health team. They have turned everybody as their slaves because they think they are so big now that people should become their slaves. Go and see the taxi drivers who have become their slaves “
He explained that the NMA last week, in Abuja during their 52nd Annual General Conference and Delegate Meeting, the ?decision taking body of NMA had reviewed what is happening in Lagos State and were very disturbed and arrived at the decision to set up an elders’ committee that will meet with the state government.
“The National Officers Committee set up is to meet with the state government within the next 24 hours. The reaction or outcome of the state government to that meeting will definitely determine the next line of action to take.”
Asked the next line of action, he said: “We are going to wait. Forget about the sack letter. We have gone this road before. This is déjà vu. We know this has happened before we are not moved. The person who wrote the sack letters will find reason to withdraw them later. What is most important is that Lagos state wants to casualise medical profession which is an insult to the profession. We hope that no doctor will fall prey to that. If they fall prey they will regret it. One, the Lagos State government will turn them to cleaners in the hospital.”
On issue of recruitment of new doctors, he said: “Lagos State is behaving like a 17th century Emperor and such an Emperor in the 21st century cannot survive. The system in the 21st century will choke that Emperor to death. So the state should withdraw to where we are. It has abandoned democracy and good governance. They may think their popularity will see them through but the most popular government has found itself in very terrible situation when they go against the wish of the people. And they should know that.” He said it is wrong to employ doctors as locum doctor. We are going to fight it legally against the doctors and against the government.”
How it all began
It will be recalled that NMA, Lagos state chapter, a week ago, had urged the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN to revoke the practicing license of doctors who may wish to take up locum or other appointments with the state government in the event of sacking the striking doctors.
The Lagos State Government in a swift reaction described the threat as baseless. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris who made the remark,, faulted the statement, saying it has no right to revoke any doctor’s license.
He said, “It has come to the attention of government that certain persons, purporting to speak for the Nigerian Medical Association, have been circulating the claim that they are in a position to get the MDCN revoke the practising license of doctors who may wish to take up locum or other appointments with the Lagos State government.
“”The MDCN is a professional regulatory body for doctors and dentists in Nigeria. It is not a trade union, and would not take decisions on eligibility for registration on criteria other than professional qualification, payment of subscription fees, and standards of professional conduct.”
Idris noted that the MDCN itself has in the recent past expressed its displeasure at the frequent recourse to strike actions by doctors, and pronounced that it is wrong for doctors, as emergency workers, to abandon the care of their patients under any circumstances.
He stressed that the Lagos State chapter of NMA must have been aware of this state of affairs, and yet put out the falsehood, apparently to create fears in the minds of the public about the possibility of the state government continuing to provide health services to the people of the state, despite the efforts of certain people to grind those services to a halt and expose the people to risk of unattended illness and even death.
“The whole exercise is a deliberate effort at cheap blackmail. It is a matter that should cause great concern to all doctors, and the public at large, that an Association which is supposed to represent the best interests of the medical profession, and to push for their loftiest goals, such as the need to take the quality of outputs of Nigerian doctors to international standards, has become a platform for pursuing base interests and peddling disgraceful, unconscionable falsehood,” Idris stated.
He therefore, advised the doctors then who had already applied to work for government and the general public to disregard the campaign of blackmail by the NMA assuring that government will do everything within its power to ensure that there is no protracted disruption of health services in the state.
The HOS circular
The state government carried out the sack in accordance with the Trade Dispute Act. In a circular issued by the State Head of Service, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe with Ref No. CIR/HOS/12/037 during the three day warning strike made reference to the provision of Section 43(1) of the Trade Dispute Act which he said will henceforth be enforced in the state.
According to Section 43(1) of the Act, it states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other law where any worker takes part in the strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or other remuneration for the period of the strike and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and all rights dependent of continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly”.
He assured staff of government’s continuous commitment to their welfare, particularly those providing essential services while stressing the need for them to respect their contract of employment, trade dispute act as well as ethics, oaths and code of their profession while in the employment of the state government.
Meanwhile, five doctors and 15 nurses have resigned their appointments with Ekiti State Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, in the last one month over perceived poor condition of service.
The Chief Medical Director, CMD, of the hospital, Dr. Patrick Adegun, disclosed to newsmen in Ado Ekiti that some of the medical personnel resigned to pursue greener pastures.
“Most of our medical personnel have decided to leave here to another place for many reasons, some of them may have leaved due to certain condition of service which are quite deferential between the state and federal establishments.
Provost of the College of Health Sciences of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, OAU, Professor Solomon Ogunniyi has frowned at medical doctors going on strike thereby paralyzing health delivery system in the country, but blamed the government for its failure to meet the demands of the doctors.
?He said “Ordinarily doctors should not embark on total strike because of the consequences on the society, but unfortunately, in Nigeria, everything has been turned upside down.”
The provost regretted that after over 50 years of nationhood, Nigeria had no standard health policy, decrying that despite the fact that the bill had been before the National Assembly for the past six years, yet nothing reasonable had come out of it.