There was agony and confusion yesterday among patients at the ESUT Hospital Parklane Enugu as resident doctors embarked on a five-day “warning strike” to press for better conditions of service, a development that the government says it has received with “shock.”

In a swift statement, Government bitterly complained that patients, including those with complications, were being hurriedly discharged as a result of the strike which it describes an “illegal action” by resident doctors at the hospital.

eMetro News heard from officials of the ESUTH Parklane branch of the Association of Resident Doctors that a letter was written to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Friday 28 February 2020 to inform him that residents would embark on the warning strike the following day (yesterday).

“We also told him that we shall follow it up with an indefinite strike if nothing was done to address our demands for better pay and condition of service,” an official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter said.

The official said that the decision to embark on the strike was taken on Thursday 27 February 2020 after the Association’s emergency meeting to appraise the conditions under which doctors are working at the hospital.

Pressed to explain what the issues are, the union rep mentioned the issue of unending brain drain among ESUTH resident doctors as a result of the poor conditions under which they work.

“Residents are just leaving the hospital, in spite of what the government and the manangement are doing.

“Many of us are sad that this is having a huge impact on the quality of care that patients are receiving and we’ve told the Governor in writing about our concerns in this area,” he said.

He also mentioned non-implementation of the corrected Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMES) which the residents hoped would have led to adjustments in their minimum wage.

Although the Union acknowledged payment of adjusted minimum wage by the State Government, he said the recent increase arising from the general minimum wage computation “though appreciated … will not suffice.”

“We have actually exhausted all diplomatic channels and negotiations with government to address the challenges hence the resort to a warning strike,” our source concluded.

The Enugu State Government in a public statement today 1 March 2020 confirmed the action which it described as “ill timed, condemnable, not done in good faith, and not in keeping with the creeds of the Hippocratic oaths.”

Speaking on behalf of the Commissioner for Health, Permanent Secretary Dr. Ifeanyi Agujiobi, regretted the timing of the strike, especially as it affects patients being given free medical and surgical treatment from a recent medical outreach by an American NGO, who he said are not being attended to.

In addition, Dr. Agujiobi said ARD ESUTH Parklane doctors should not have gone on strike at a time that the country is dealing with the challenge of the new Corona virus outbreak.

He condemned the hurried discharge of patients in the wards, including those with complications.

Government also took time to lecture the doctors on trade union strike process, accusing union officials of giving less than 24-hour notice of strike to the government, against the rules, and thereafter going underground.

“All key officials of ARD ESUTH Parklane have remained incommunicado as their phones are switched off,” he complained.

“More worrisome is that the Enugu state government has not owed any of the doctors their monthly salary and the doctors are well cared for. This last month February salary was paid on Saturday 22nd February 2020 with the New minimum wage and the upward consequential adjustment.

“The discussion on further enhancement of the welfare of ARD doctors at ESUTH Parklane is being looked into even as the Management of ESUTH Parklane hospital has been asked to bring up the comprehensive list of all the ARD doctors so as to evaluate the TENANCY of their residency training program as some of them have actually overstayed their duration as contained in their appointment letters for the residency program so as to know the actual  doctors that Enugu state government is dealing with.

“Be informed that Enugu State Government secured Accreditation in some relevant departments and is poised to see that the hospital is placed at enviable position to other training institutions with Enugu State Executive Council approvals made recently in several facets as requested by the management of ESUTH Parklane.

“ESUTH Parklane ARD should also note that the notice of the strike was signed by one Dr. Chukwunonso N. Ofonere who was suspended by the Enugu State Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) on allegation of fraud which makes this notice of strike further unlawful, complicit and illegal.

“We therefore advise all doctors in ESUTH Parklane to be at their duty post so as not to abscond from their civic responsibilities. Any loss of life or complications arising from this unlawful action at ESUTH Parklane will be seriously dealt with as Enugu state government will take it head on with the management of ESUTH Parklane and the managing team of the occasioned patient.

“We implore the general populace and good people of Enugu state to be also aware that our General hospitals at Nsukka, Enugu Ezike, Udi, Agbani, Awgu, Ikem, Uwani as well as the Poly General Hospital Enugu are well equipped and ready to take medical consultations and treatment by our medical and health personnel.

“Finally, we still encourage everyone to observe basic universal health precautions and personal hygiene in this wake of National health disease outbreak.” the statement concluded.