The Management of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka, Anambra State has engaged the services of private doctors to render core medical services and cushion the effect of the strike embarked upon by the Association of Resident Doctors.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that ARDs COOUTH branch on Monday commenced an indefinite strike to press home their demands for improved working conditions.
A NAN correspondent monitoring activities at the hospital reports that medical services are going on but at slow pace as seen in the large number of patients waiting for attention.
The correspondent further gathered that some private doctors were hired by the management to make up for the gap created by the striking doctors.
A pregnant woman at the General Out Patient Department, who pleaded anonymity, said she was surprised to see such number of patients waiting to see a doctor.
She said she was told that the two doctors on duty were hired to attend to patients and that she had been assured that she would be attended to.
She however called on the Anambra State Government to dialogue with the striking doctors to end the industrial crisis at COOUTH.
One of the House Officers on duty also told NAN that the ARD members fully complied with the strike as none of them was at the hospital.
Dr. Obinna Aniagboso, the Chairman of ARD, COOUTH branch, said the strike action was full blown and there had not been talk with government, adding that he cannot tell when it would end.
Aniagboso said they were aware that management had engaged private doctors to act in their stead which, according to him, was not bad but regretted that it was at a high cost.
He cautioned the ad-hoc doctors for trying to undermine their agitation which, he said, would benefit every practitioner.
But the chairman said the outcome of their meeting with Governor Willie Obiano would determine their next line of action, adding that they can ask the House Officers to stop rendering services.
He said: “Naturally it will impact negatively on services because Resident Doctors are the core of the workforce, but our House Officers are there to assist consultants render skeletal services.
“I can’t tell you when we will call off the strike until we meet with the governor to see what they are bringing to the table, but we can further withdraw the services of our House Officers.
“Yes, we are aware that management hired some private doctors but they are paying exorbitantly for it, but those doctors should know that they are trying to undermine our agitation.
“We can actually take them up on that but we are overlooking that option for now because we are not against the management or the patients but those doctors should know that they too stand to benefit when the conditions get better.
“They may decide to come back as resident doctors.
“For now, status quo ante remains.”
Reacting to the development, Dr. Basil Nwankwo, the Chief Medical Director of COOUTH, told NAN that services at the hospital were normal but a slower pace, blaming it on the ARD that withdrew their services.
Nwankwo said management had to engage the private doctors as a matter of overriding public interest, stressing that while management is engaging constructively with the doctors, it has to also save lives.
He said ARD lacked the powers to stop House Officers from working as the conditions for Housemanship were explicitly spelt out in Medical and Dental rule books.
He said: “Services are going on, Consultants are working, House Officers, the GOPD, Specialists, Inpatients and Emergency are all working.
“We even co-opted some doctors to beef up our manpower and as a matter of urgent public medical interest can attend to the medical needs of Anambra people, management cannot stand and watch them die because ARD are on strike
“Management is actively engaging government and government is responding well.
“I am sure the strike will end before Friday.
“They don’t have powers to stop House Officers from working.
“Housemanship, according to Medical and Dental law, is 12 interrupted calendar months.
“It is a preregistration exercise and breaks the law does it again without pay.”