Resident doctors in the South-East Nigeria have raised alarm over the deteriorating condition of medical facilities at the Federal and State tertiary hospitals in the zone.
The doctors are also worried over non implementation of the National Health Act of 2014 and level of indebtedness of the federal and state government to their members in the area.
These and more issues were part of the deliberations of the resident doctors in a meeting they held in Enugu, the capital of the old eastern region.
Executive members of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) from the 10 accredited tertiary health institutions in the zone attended the meeting.
The meeting is not unconnected with the threat of an indefinite nation-wide industrial action by the national leadership of association over inability of the Federal government to honour 14 July, 2016 agreement reached with the doctors.
At the end of their deliberations in Enugu, the Leader South East Caucus of NARD, Dr. Udu Chijioke Udu lamented that condition of health facilities in government hospitals in the zone needed special attention and if possible a state of emergency be declared in the health sector in the five south east states, made up of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States.
“The people domiciled in the South Eastern part of Nigeria continue to suffer the effects of poor state of facilities in our tertiary health institutions. For example, patients diagnosed with Cancers do not have access to any radiotherapy machine in the entire south east Nigeria, despite the presence of 10 tertiary health institutions.”
He expressed regret that the decay was on the increase saying “that patients are left in the hands of a few private facilities to get medium level investigations like CT-scans and MRIs because those available in our public health institution are either moribund or completely out-dated.”
Dr. Udu who doubles as the President NARD, Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki FETHA, Ebonyi State, expressed regret that the National Health Act of 2014 was yet to be implemented, saying it was meant to provide succor for the numerous patients going through inhumane treatments in hospitals.
“If the Act is implemented, someone that is under-5 will come to hospital and is attended to free, a pregnant woman will come to the hospital and is attended to free. Even the elderly persons, above sixty, if you come to the hospital and you are attended to free.”
“So I think it’s something that we should encourage because it will go a long way to help us. And the fund provided for it also goes a long way to subsidize what you pay as a patient, even if you do not fall into this category because it will also revamp the National Health Insurance Scheme to ensure that normalcy is restored there because what is happening there is not something we have come here to discuss.”
The resident doctors particularly pointed out that the level of dilapidation of facilities and nonpayment of accumulated arrears of salaries to doctors at the State and Federal medical institutions in Imo and Abia States had gone out of hand.
According to Dr. Udu, his members in the state employ especially the Imo and the Abia State University teaching Hospitals have continued to suffer several months of unpaid salaries.
“Our colleagues in Federal Medical Centre Owerri are still owed their December 2016 salary till date and even the December 2016 salary was further fractionated, despite their resilience and efforts to maintain peace in their adversity. They have now obviously been stretched beyond life-compatible limits.”
Dr. Chukwuwmwka Orji, the President NARD at the FMC Umuahia decried the treatment meted to doctors at both the Federal and state government hospitals in the state.
“In Abia State University Teaching Hospital, people will work for several months they are owed. When they clear that debt they begin to accumulate another one. Because of what is going on there, we now have the federal health institution being over burden. So we believe that the government of that state should do more to revamp that health institution.”
Then coming to issues with the FMC Umuahia, Dr. Orji lamented resident doctors were not paid their full salary despite the claim that it is the only functional public tertiary health facility in Abia State.
“We are being paid percentages of our salary for several months, over a year plus now. I am a Senior Registrar, (but) my salary is less than that of a Registrar in FETHA, in UNTH, in National Orthopedic Hospital Enugu. We do not know why that is obtainable.”
Similarly, the Vice President, NARD, ESUT Teaching Hospital, Parklane, Enugu, Dr. Chidi Ikpeazu complained bitterly that they were paid seventy percent of their salary only while house officers were owed up to eleven months.
However, he said that the State Government was engaging them in a dialogue to resolve the matter.
Other demands of the Resident doctors included that they be enrolled into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System IPPIS) and the National Pension Scheme.
They further called on the state governments in the South east zone to implement the Federal Government directive on proper placement of doctors and adjusted entry steps for house officers as well as the release of government white paper on the guideline for residency programme.
The doctors said that if their demands were not met, they would join in the proposed nation-wide strike, whenever the national body of the association declared one.
BY CHUKWUBUIKE MADU