By Ihechinyere Chigemeri-Uwom
Umuahia, Patients in public hospitals in Abia have continued to bear the brunt of the ongoing strike by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in the state.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent, who monitored the strike, reports a total compliance with the NMA directive at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) and Abia Specialist and Diagnostic Hospital in Umuahia.
The association in Abia had on Dec. 9 declared a strike but on Jan. 10 declared the strike total and indefinite.
The body announced the strike because of unpaid salary arrears of 25 and 13 months for Abia State University Teaching Hospital and Hospital Management Board workers, respectively.
A patient, Mrs Glory Orji, said that she travelled from Aba to FMC to receive prompt medical care but was met with disappointment as a result of the strike.
“Health matters are very important and should be treated as such by all concerned, therefore, I call on the government to do the needful,” Orji said.
Another patient, Mr Fidelis Onuoha, said that he resides in Imo and was at FMC Umuahia for his routine medical check but lamented that doctors were not attending to patients.
Onuoha said the development was disturbing and worrisome for him and urged the government to meet the demands of the doctors because of citizens with health needs.
An expectant mother, Mrs Eunice Njoku, appealed to doctors to run skeletal services because of the patients who visit the hospital for emergency medical care.
Njoku urged the state government to meet the demands of the doctors and bring the strike to an end without further delay.
A physiotherapist, Miss Veronica Ahamefula, said that she brought her sister to the hospital to see a neurologist, but was told that doctors were on strike.
“I appeal to the government to meet the demands of NMA because its members play a vital role in the health and wellbeing of the citizens,” Ahamefula added.
The Protocol Officer of FMC, Mr Darlington Madubuko, said that doctors in FMC joined the strike to show support for their colleagues in Abia hospitals.
Madubuko said that the strike is taking its toll on healthcare delivery in the hospital, indicating that patients on admission have been discharged to seek healthcare services elsewhere.
“You can see that everywhere is empty; this is a total strike and I don’t know when it will end,” he said.
Madubuko appealed to the state government to clear the backlog of salaries owed doctors in state-owned health institutions to enable them return to their duty posts.
A visit to the Abia Specialist and Diagnostic Hospital showed that the health facility, which is usually a beehive of activities, was deserted.
A nurse at the hospital, who pleaded anonymity for fear of victimization, said that the hospital was no longer admitting patients.
She said that children’s male and female wards and the Accident and Emergency Unit were empty as result of the doctors’ strike.
Mrs Mary Chimahulamiro, a farmer, said that she brought her husband to the hospital for his regular medical appointment but had to leave because no doctor would attend to him.
Chimahulamiro said that the strike had shattered her plans and called on the government to intervene in order to address the cause of the strike.
The NMA Abia Chapter Chairman, Dr Isaiah Abali, said that the association had set up a monitoring team to ensure total compliance and sanctions on defaulters.
“The government has kept mute. They have not approached us on this matter and we won’t beg them as our message is this ‘pay us our salaries’.
“If the present administration doesn’t pay us, the strike will continue until a new administration comes on board in the state,” Abali said.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Osuji, said the government had done its best hence it is now left for NMA to respond and adequately oblige the efforts of the government
Osuji, however, did not say what the government had done afresh since the strike began to warrant a response from the NMA.
“Bringing the strike to an end depends on the NMA,” he said. (NAN)