By Tunde Opalana &Tom Okpe,
The Senate has said that resident doctors should be held responsible for the death of any patient that dies while the strike embarked upon by them nationwide subsists.
Accusing members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) of insensitivity on the strike action, the Senate Committee on Health on Thursday lamented the untold hardship and effect such action will have on helpless patients.
This is as the House of Representatives Committee on Health Care Services has threatened to invoke warrant of arrest on the registrar, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria if he fails to appear before it, a second time.
Tajudeen Sanusi was invited to appear before the lawmakers on Thursday to answer questions on the ongoing strike by resident doctors and payment of House officers. The lawmakers had to call off the meeting after a letter was delivered to the Committee that Sanusi was unavoidably absent.
The Senate Committee chairman, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe (APC Kwara Central) said all efforts by the National Assembly to avert the doctors ongoing strike was thwarted by the recalcitrant doctors. Speaking at a public hearing at the National Assembly on Thursday, he said “we had a marathon meeting just before Easter, on March 21st specifically and we agreed on all the issues that were raised by the resident doctors.”
Speaking further, he said, three germane issues were discussed which included the payment of salary to house officers which as at that time had been essentially been cleared.
He wondered why the doctors embarked on strike on account of the salary. “The second one was what they claimed to be payment to local resident doctors, which was an aberration where there was not supposed to be local but the government agreed to commence payment which has started to be done.
“Those are the two critical ones that were germane most of the other issues that were raised were not even issues within the purview of the federal government because they were issues of state governments that owed salaries or something.”
According to Oloriegbe, these are issues that relate to things that were thrashed in 2014, 2015 which was as at that meeting, the Federal Ministry of Finance confirmed that a committee has been set up to look at the other aspects. “So we are surprised that the resident doctors went on strike.
However, we are not reneging; my counterparts in the House of Representatives are meeting with the resident doctors.”
Appealing to the striking doctors to go back to work, the committee chairman said “like I said, any single soul that dies as a result of that strike, is in the hands of the doctors. I am a doctor myself.
We took oath to serve and save lives. On no circumstance through our action endanger any life to be lost due to our personal. “We know as doctors we have to take care of our welfare, but we have taken an oath to serve.
I’m appealing to them that we should go back to work while negotiations and discussions will go on on outstanding issues.
“The other thing I want to put on record is that the Nigerian Medical Association also wrote the Senate President and the letter had been referred to our committee and we have taken action on some of the other issues that are relevant to doctors like things on retirement.
“I want to assure NMA that we will give expeditious action to those issues.” The House of Representatives Committee on Health Care Services has threatened to invoke warrant of arrest on the registrar, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria if he fails to appear before it, a second time. Giving the threat against Tajudeen Sanusi for failing to appear before it, Chairman of the Committee, Tanko Sununu said Sanusi failed to honour an invitation on a national emergency while attending a personal engagement.
He said: “We sent out our invitation to all major stakeholders to attend this meeting. Unfortunately, he refused to honor the invitation. “We cannot watch while people suffer, so, we call on the striking Doctors to temper justice with mercy; everybody believe that your demands are genuine, but there are processes to achieve them.
“Because Sanusi is a major stakeholder, we have decided to call off the meeting today and summon him to appear unfailingly before us by 9am Friday, failing which, we are going to invoke all the necessary powers of the National Assembly including warrant of arrest on him.
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“We were informed that MDCN is conducting a medical disciplinary tribunal and meeting, which we believe is the case of an individual.
“We are here to address national issues of interests. Peoples’ lives were lost during the strike, services were interrupted, accessibility to health-care was also denied because of the strike. “And to make matters worse, in Nigeria 70 per cent of healthcare procurement is out of pocket.
The economy has gone down, so access to healthcare is in question. We cannot as representatives of the people allow the country to continue like this,” he noted.