It is day two of the nationwide strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), and across the country, patients are bearing the brunt of the industrial action.
When the strike was announced, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, president of the association, had accused the federal government of reneging on previous agreements that border on poor working conditions.
Among other issues raised, the association is also demanding the “immediate payment” of salary arrears to all its members, an upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50 percent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers, as well as payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance.
During visits to various hospitals on Friday, TheCable found that patients are being denied healthcare services as a result of the strike. Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari is currently undergoing a medical check-up in the United Kingdom.
IN ABUJA, SOME PATIENTS HAVE BEEN DISCHARGED
At Kubwa General Hospital, a woman lamented how the patient she brought for treatment was abandoned by health workers, saying: “They said they’re not attending to people. We just begged them because the woman I brought is not breathing properly.”
At the accident and emergency ward, some persons also waited for hours in the hope of seeing a doctor, while a staff of the hospital confirmed to TheCable that doctors are no longer seeing patients, except in emergency cases.
The security guard at the hospital gate also said patients had been discharged on Thursday due to the strike.
“We didn’t see any doctor except in accident and emergency. They have discharged many people yesterday because of the strike — even the ones that are not okay,” the guard who declined to give his name said.
One of the patients at the facility said there are only two doctors attending to emergency cases, while another added: “You’re sick and you are asked to come back; God will take care. The best thing is to go to a private hospital if you have the money. I’ve been here for one hour now.”
At the National Hospital, TheCable learned that families who have the financial means have started relocating their sick relatives to private hospitals.
A caregiver at the paediatric section of the hospital, who craved anonymity, told TheCable that the absence of doctors has also affected the services rendered to the children. She said her child had to be transferred from the emergency paediatric unit (EPU) “because the doctors are not available”.
“I have no choice, that is why we’re still here. Some people left since the doctors are not available. When I came, all these beds were filled up. But some people had to go,” she said.
The situation was not so different at the Maitama District Hospital where doctors have vacated, leaving the nurses to do all they can, including rendering skeletal services and attending to minor health issues.
Frank Eze, a patient in the male ward, narrated his experience with a nurse
He said: “I have not seen doctors today. It is the nurses that are attending to me. The nurse wanted to inject me, but she couldn’t because the needle in the drip got stuck inside my body. She said it is only the doctor that can fix it, but I was fortunate this morning because when I took my bath, the thing pulled out.”
When TheCable visited the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), the situation was worse as children were left unattended in their ward. Some of the children on admission were seen laying on their beds with drips, but there was no doctor in sight.
Many of the wards were also filled with patients and their family members — all looking helpless as a result of the strike.
A woman who identified herself as Adekunle said no doctor had attended to her since Thursday.
“This strike is affecting us. Look at this girl. She has leukaemia (and) needs serious attention. Government should help us and intervene,” she lamented.
The same scene played out at the male ward, where one of the patients said he was unable to get the follow-up treatment after undertaking surgery last week.
At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), patients were made to wait longer than usual as departments and units were functioning at limited capacity due to the unavailability of doctors.
Emilia Kalu, a middle-aged woman whose husband was to undergo dialysis, lamented the delay in service delivery. She said her husband could not receive treatment until after 24 hours when their medical consultant was available.
Chinenye Udeze, whose husband had suffered a stroke, expressed fear about an imminent rise in the death rate at the hospital.
“My husband has been here for a month in the acute stroke unit. The strike only made the hospital more deserted. The A&E (accident and emergency unit) is less busy. The doctor was saying that any patient that comes would be sent back. Even if somebody is critical, they will send the person home,” she said.
A matron who spoke anonymously at one of the wards said many of the resident doctors have not been around since the strike started.
“The patients are anxious to go home. Like the paediatricians, some of the mothers are waiting for them to discharge them. But most of them were discharged yesterday. No doctor is around now in the ward. We are just following the post-op order to manage the patients,” she said.
UCH IBADAN REJECTING PATIENTS
At the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, TheCable observed that no new patient was admitted as doctors in the hospital were bent on sticking to the rules of the strike.
A nurse at the paediatrics department who declined to give her name said: “The doctors are on strike, but the lower cadres are the ones on the ground to take care of the admitted patients, although we are not admitting fresh patients because of the strike.”
Hassan Olamide, a patient who was seen at the emergency department, said she was there through a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) referral and had been waiting for a doctor to attend to her.
Another patient, whose wife works at the hospital, said he was able to receive treatment because of his spouse.
“The one (doctor) who was supposed to attend to me did not come but his boss treated me,” the man said.
Unfortunately, not many people can enjoy such privileges, nor can they afford overseas medical treatment like the president.
While the resident doctors have insisted that the strike will continue until their demands are met, what becomes of the patients who cannot afford private care?
Reporters: Jesupemi Are, Samuel Akpan, Olusola Oludiran, Stephen Kenechukwu, Ayodele Oluwafemi.