By Ede Nwuzo
By virtue of their training and vocation, doctors ought always to be circumspect, demonstrate self-restraint and shun motives that are self-serving.
But over the years, resident doctors have increasingly acted in ways that desecrate their Hippocratic Oath and clearly expose them for what they are – a band of unscrupulous professionals with an insatiable sense of entitlement.
No recent action by doctors best typify this insufferable self-indulgence like the “five-day warning strike” called by the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital’s Association of Resident. The decision to embark on a strike in a week that health authorities announced the first Corona Virus case in the country vitiates whatever valid grouse they might have had, and, indeed, speaks volumes about their work ethic as professionals who swore to an oath to preserve lives.
But even if the resident doctors would rather pander to the whims of labour unionism than be guided by the ennobling dictates of their vocation, the question then that begs for an answer is this: Whatever happened to the standard labour practice requiring sufficient notice to employers before an industrial action is called?
In the more developed societies where the average Nigerian doctor dreams of migrating to practice, strikes are not called gleefully. That is because there could be consequences, especially when the industrial action results in patient-mortality. Why do doctors here have no qualms about going out on strike? Why are they hardly ever sensitive to the pains their indiscretions will inflict on patients whose wellness they took an oath to improve?
Seeking improved earnings and better working conditions are both legitimate aspirations. But they should never be obtained through blackmail, or at the expense of patients who have invariably become pawns in the doctors’ endless invidious material quest.
Before the ill-advised strike, my niece had been on post-surgery clinical management at ESUTH, having taking part in the recent free medical outreach organized by Faith Care Foundation, an American NGO in collaboration with U-TOLF. That window of opportunity is threatened, however, by the absence of resident doctors at the state’s university teaching hospital.
I do not speak for the government, but I’m aware that even while other states were still bickering over its implementation, resident doctors in Enugu State had long been on the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS). That is besides the numerous interventions in the health sector which has made Enugu the state with the third best doctor-to-patient ratio in the country, and put it among five states with the least child mortality.
There can be no worse cruelty than the fact that these same striking doctors will still earn their full pay despite having not offered commensurate work for the corresponding period. Add the fact that they would, quite possibly, have worked at a private facility during the period they had abstained from work and you will understand why public sector doctors behave like over-indulgent children.
This is totally wrong. No society should be subjected to such abuse of privilege as is frequently done by our doctors.
- Nwuzo, a school administrator, resides in Enugu.