Health Workers' Strike and the Deadly Consequencies...

Eight days into the nationwide strike embarked upon by health workers under the employ of the Federal Government, excluding doctors, more critically ill patients and those requiring urgent medical attention who were rejected by government-owned hospitals have continued to die, while others’ situation has gone from bad to worse.

The Guardian investigation revealed that most patients cannot afford services at private hospitals, the cost of which is about ten times higher than what obtains at federal government hospitals. Pressure on Lagos hospitals by the rejected patients have increased waiting time, which the critically ill cannot afford.

While some have resorted to patronizing quacks, road-side patent medicine stores and chemists, and indulging in self medication, others visit spiritual houses and some others prefer to stay at home to die.

The Guardian who visited most of the Federal Government-owned hospitals in Lagos, including the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi- Araba, National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi, Federal Neuropsychiatry Hospital Yaba and Federal Medical Centre at Railway Compound Ebutte Meta found that except in-patients, that is those already on admission, those who had clinic appointments and the very critically ill patients, others were being rejected.

The nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and other members of the health team, excluding the doctors, that constitute about 90 per cent of the hospitals’ work force, were on strike. It was, however, observed that the consultants and all the doctors were working round the clock, and the X-ray departments, the laboratories and the blood bank were offering skeletal services.

The ever-busy LUTH was a shadow of itself yesterday. The Accident and Emergency Unit was shut. There was no influx of patients. The car lots were half empty, although the caretakers were still collecting N200 from visitors for parking space. The doctors cared less. They were going about their duties.

When The Guardian visited the National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi (NOHI) Lagos, yesterday, the hospital premises was like a ghost town, as the premises was deserted by patients who used to throng the hospital for medical cases. It was observed that officials rejected outpatient’s cases that were not on emergency list.

A source, which did not want to be named told The Guardian that a patient who had come from Oshogbo, Osun State, was rejected yesterday morning by the hospital.But the situation is different in Lagos State-owned hospitals, including Isolo General Hospital and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja when The Guardian visited yesterday: the hospitals were overwhelmed by many of the patients rejected at the Federal Government hospitals, because the health workers are not on strike. Patients from across the state troop to LASUTH for medical care.

The whole corridors and waiting rooms were filled with patients waiting and in queues, seeking to be attended to. Besides the human traffic, the whole compound was jam-packed with vehicles of relations who brought their loved ones.

 The story was the same at Isolo General Hospital where full scale activities were also seen going on. At the General Outpatient department, Mother and Child Section, Emergency department and other sections, nurses were seen attending topatients.Achunike Emembolu, a trader who brought her sick aged mother to the hospital, said he rushed her sick mother to LASUTH when she was rejected by LUTH.“I was seriously worried when they turned us back, telling usthat they were on strike and were not admitting new patients. I knew that my only option was to go to private hospital and spend exorbitantly without even being sure of the quality service I would get.

I was consoled when a friend told me to take her to LASUTH that they are working and I came and confirmed.”One of the rejected patients at NOHI, Mr. Vincent Ujah, said he had come to the hospital from Iyana Ipaja, a distance of a about an hour drive, to seek medical help on a condition he believed to be arthritis, adding that he was not aware that health workers were on strike.

The 35-year old man, who was assisted to the hospital by his friend, added that the scenario he met on ground disappointed him. Acting Chief Medical Director at LUTH, Prof. Chris Bode, told The Guardian: “The strike itself is something between some segments of the health workers and the Federal Government. It is not between the hospital and those groups. We are hoping that as soon as possible this will be amicably resolved so that Nigerians will not suffer because one day of a strike is a loss of so many things, not only lives, but health to people.

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