Resident doctors in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku/Ozalla, Enugu, have lamented that the hospital can no longer conduct basic healthcare procedures like x-rays and full blood count tests.
Brandishing placards with inscriptions like ‘Patients are dying, patients are not being cared for’, and ‘Pay our salaries’, the doctors who staged a protest on Monday and took journalists around empty wards in the facility, alleged that many departments of the hospital had lost their accreditation.
The General Secretary, Association of Resident Doctors, UNTH, Dr. Uzoma Ossai, said that patients no longer received adequate care at the hospital.
Ossai said, “We are worried about the patients. They are suffering because of the prevailing situation. Those who would have received adequate care here are forced to go to other hospitals, whereas they could have been attended to by consultants and specialists here.
“Most of the times, there is no light to operate on patients in the theatre, x-ray machines are no longer working here. Even full blood count test is not done here. Patients, some of who are in critical condition, are told to go to the town, which is about 30km away, to do these things.
“In some cases the patients don’t come back. What happens is that many die on the way. “
Ossai, who declared that the hospital was just living on past glory, also accused the management of withholding their salaries even after it had received the payment from the Federal Government, which, he claimed, had forced the hospital’s consultants to embark on an industrial action.
He said, “We don’t know why the UNTH management is delaying the payment of our shortfall arrear. It is only in UNTH that consultants have gone on strike. Life has become unbearable for us as many of us are now forced to borrow money to survive. We are law abiding citizens; otherwise we would have taken to violence,”
Chairman of the UNTH resident doctors association, Dr. Isaiah Nwidenyi, disclosed that the hospital had been grounded since the past two months, following an industrial action embarked upon by consultants in the health institution.
He added that the strike was prompted by the management’s failure to offset ‘salary shortfall arrears’ even after receiving money for same from the Federal Government.
Nwidenyi said, “For some time now, UNTH has been in a deplorable condition due to the quality of training and the remuneration. For the past two months the consultants have been on strike and when they are not around our training suffers.
“When tertiary hospitals in the country experienced shortfall in the payment of February and March salaries, the management informed us and pleaded with us to accept a percentage of our salaries, and we accepted.
“But it reneged on the promise to pay the balance in April, and subsequently continued to do so.”
When contacted on Tuesday, the UNTH Public Relations Officer, Mr. Kene Eze, said the hospital’s management was “looking into the issue” raised by the resident doctors.
Meanwhile, the Medical Director of Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Imo state, Dr. Kingsley Achigbu, has denied the purported sacking of doctors on internship in the institution.
Resident doctors of the institution, last week, demonstrated over what they called an arbitrary sacking of their own, non-payment of salaries and high-handedness of the management.
According to Achigbu, the hospital is only taking in new residents as the ones at the institution have exceeded the number of years slated for their training.
He, however, lamented that many of the residents were not focused on their training, saying most of the private hospitals in the city were owned by them.
According to him, many of them have taken the residency project as an avenue to only earn salary and enrich themselves.
He said, “Most of them have overstayed their welcome in the programme. This has made it pretty difficult for other young graduate doctors to enroll for the programme at the centre.
“Exiting those residents that are overdue in the programme is what they tag sacking. It is pertinent to note that as residents exit the system, new ones come in.”
He, however, averred that the delay in the payment of the September, 2017 salary was due to the strike by the Joint Health Sector Unions and non-medical staff of the institutions .
He said, “Those staff of the institution, who were to prepare the salaries, were locked out owing to the strike. It was after the strike that they started working on the payment.
“By the time they finished working on the September, 2017 salary, it could not be uploaded because of the nationwide upgrade. This made it impossible for the platform to accept the passwords of our residents, such that the money couldn’t be uploaded to the respective accounts of the beneficiaries.
“However, as I speak with you, the salary is ready for payment.”
The MD said that the March, 2017 salaries were withheld going by the “No Work, No Pay “policy of the Federal Government.
“The residents did not work for about one month and two weeks. And in obedience to the “No work, No pay” policy of the Federal Ministry of Health, the March, 2017 salary was forfeited,” he claimed.