Since the last eleven days the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Imo State chapter has been on strike. And since the period that the strike has gone under way the Imo state government was yet to raise a voice. This has left the public with the impression that the government is not prepared to do anything.
In line with the statement that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffer, the Imo citizens have borne the consequences of the action. There are reported spikes in the number of persons dying in the hospital as a result of the strike action. A Vanguard newspaper report put the figure at over 80% death rate of patients. This no doubt if true is a serious indictment against the government and shows its insensitivity.
Expressing their grievances in a radio program, officials of the association led by their state chairman stated that their grievances include non-payment of doctors’ salaries since March, infrastructural deficiencies, and loss of accreditation, cut in salaries of doctors. Others are refusal of government to adopt the current Consolidated Medical Salary Scheme (CONMESS) in paying their salaries.
According to the doctors they have interfaced with the governor and other government officials many times and received promises but nothing came out of it. Consequently, they have to exercise the strike option to drive home their point. The doctors acknowledged that their challenge stemmed from the previous government but expressed that even this government has not shown anything to demonstrate it is ready to do anything.
It has also been learnt that the government on their side has accused the doctors of receiving double salaries especially as some of them are teaching in the medical school as well as working in the various hospitals owned by the state. The doctors have since explained away the situation as the uniqueness in their profession which gives them the opportunity to do different jobs.
Looked at on their merits, each of the issues raised by the doctors have grave consequences for the survival of our health care system, the medical profession and the well being of the citizens. They are issues the government is expected to tackle with dispatch if it seriously appreciates its responsibility of protecting lives.
We need not recount at this point the importance of a healthy population which in turn produces a productive population. A diseased workforce can hardly contribute to the much trumpeted national development.
The loss of accreditation since four years means that more students are no longer admitted into the Imo State University Teaching Hospital. Those are three or four sets of students since then that have stagnated. The implication is that the chain is broken in the line of producing succeeding doctors. As people are retiring from the system how is the gap being closed?
Imo is a high producer of raw materials that feeds the higher schools population in Nigeria. In an era and in a society where each government pays attention to its own people, Imo students qualified as they may be would lose chances of entering higher institutions as early as they would wish. Many may be distracted by negative social tendencies and the society would lose their contributions.
It is never cheering news that Imo State government is not capable of running institutions to absorb its students. It is clear that the government lacks any idea about the importance of planning and the benefits derivable there from. It raises serious concerns over the much trumpeted promises of the government to care for its citizens. Sadly, the perpetrators of this anomaly have their children studying outside the country.
We must never fail to point out that the government by its own action and inaction is killing the health system in the state. Failure to honour its obligation to the doctors will trigger a brain drain because the available hands will seek greener Pasture elsewhere while it will be unable to attract any from other regions.
The training of medical doctors is a rigorous and time consuming skill which is not easy to accomplish. The doctor- patient ratio in the country is a far cry. While the government is not able to close the gap it is shocking that it is creating more opportunities to widen the gap. The loss of human lives which is ongoing will whittle down the productive capacities and create more hardship as those depending on the deceased will suffer more and depopulate the society.
News Echo wishes to condemn strongly government silence in the ongoing strike. Any interpretation given to it fits the silence. The government has demonstrated the highest degree of neglect of the people’s welfare, same people it has been trumpeting is its concern for. We take exception to the level everything has degenerated in our governance.
It is not enough to plead as alibi that the situation was not generated by this government. Government is a continuum. We call on the legislature, the traditional institution, the clergy, the labour and all stakeholders to pressure the government to take immediate steps to arrest these situation among other ugly developments.