The current strike embarked upon by Lagos State medical doctors calls for concern, especially as it puts the health of hapless patients in the hospitals at utmost risk. Last week, doctors in all government owned hospitals embarked on an indefinite strike to protest what they say was the continuing appointment of their members as contract workers and the unpaid arrears for the months of May 2012 and July, August and September 2014 due to the state’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
It would be recalled that two weeks ago, the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA), gave the government a 21-day ultimatum within which to pay the August and September 2014 salaries or face strike. We believe that the present impasse is uncalled for, especially where there is the political will to end it.
The issues in contention could have been resolved before now if both sides had shown enough goodwill and appreciation of each other’s positions.
Even with the ongoing strike, it is pertinent to ask why the Lagos State Government is refusing to pay the doctors for the months they went on strike, given that their colleagues in other states who also took part were paid their outstanding salaries. More painful is the fact that six other groups that had embarked on strike within the said period, such as ASUU, ASUP, polytechnic lecturers, teachers union, magistrates, judiciary workers and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), had their salaries paid in full.
But it seems the government is relying on section 43(1)(a) of the Trade Disputes Act which states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law, where any worker takes part in a 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 on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.”
Definitely, the present muscle-flexing is not only fuelling resentment, but also making it harder for any amicable settlement to be reached.
Strikingly, one of the issues at stake is the contract employment of doctors by the state government. This is very ridiculous given that Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole have one of the least numbers of doctors to patient ratio in the world.
Absurdly, this action tends to pay scant regard to the profession, even when it takes a lot of time and resources to train a medical doctor.
We believe that no law is cast in stone or cannot be amended to meet the exigencies of the moment. With this in mind, we implore both sides to meet and work out an acceptable framework for ending the impasse in the interest of patients and the state health sector