Lockdown: NMA, Medical Guild allege police harassment of doctors, health workers in Lagos

The Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, and the Medical Guild yesterday alleged undue “harassment” of medical doctors and other health workers in Lagos even as they decried what they described as ‘uncomplimentary’ statement credited to the State Commissioner of Police, CP, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, on the movements of health workers following restriction of movement informed by the fight against the spread of coronavirus in the country.

In a separate press statement issued by the state NMA and Medical Guild, a group of doctors under the employ of Lagos state government, the medical doctors expressed dismay at the unsavory comments by the Lagos CP that Identification Cards were not enough to allow movement of healthcare workers to health facilities in Lagos during the lockdown as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

They alleged that the comment of the State Commissioner which was aired on a national television Tuesday among others stated that health workers, in addition to carrying valid means of identification, must show evidence of being on duty whenever they move around the state.

The Medical Guild in a statement signed by the Chairman, Dr. Olujimi Sodipo, disclosed that the broadcast on the national television at exactly 1:20 PM, Tuesday, was preceded by reports of harassment of their members who they claimed took the uncommon risk of driving through the road of Lagos to attend to sick patients in the hospitals with the majority of these harassed members requiring the physical intervention of other doctors before they were released by the overzealous security agents.

They called on the Lagos State Government to prevail on the security operatives to allow all healthcare workers through the roads to provide services in the hospitals.

“We strongly urge the CP to retract his directive which will lead to loss of lives of members of the public unnecessarily. We also use this medium to appreciate all our members who have taken up the task of catering for COVID-19 and other patients in all our hospitals. With God’s will, Lagos and Nigeria will soon be declared free of the pandemic,” the Guild stated.

Similarly, Lagos NMA in its press statement jointly signed by the State Chairman, Dr Saliu Oseni and the Secretary, Dr. Ramon Moronkola, regretted that its National body had called out their members in several states to suspend their legitimate demands for unpaid salaries and other emoluments in order to focus solely on the fight against COVID 19.

Stating that medical doctors were on the frontline deploying their knowledge and skills, at great risk to their lives, against the pandemic they said the NMA was pained by the call by the Commissioner of Police, CP, for doctors and other health workers to carry evidence of being on duty.

“Is the CP suggesting that health workers engage in “illegal duty” or wander about aimlessly? Perhaps, the CP underestimates the enormity of the work at hand.

“Several countries have already called thousands of health workers out of retirement. In peacetime, the health system in the country suffered from shortages of health care workers, it, therefore, stands to reason that the ongoing war against COVID 19 demands the mobilization of all hands and not curious statements, such as the one credited to the CP, which are capable of creating unnecessary bottlenecks for our members and other healthcare workers,” they stated.

They added that the statement by the CP was capable of exposing their members and other healthcare workers to unwarranted harassment by personnel of the Nigeria Police.

“Already, we have received a few unsavory reports from our members pertaining to the enforcement of restriction on movements leading to their harassment.

“Medical doctors are not unmindful of the great responsibility that the profession places on them at difficult times like these, especially considering the need to continue to keep the hospitals open and attend to other life-threatening conditions outside COVID-19. These services are also rendered at both public and private facilities.

“It is also imperative for the CP to realise that the health workers are always on duty as you can be called to report at any and all times, also that the other ancillary health staff is part of the health team.

“Indeed, we are the first line of defense and the last line of retreat in the ongoing pandemic. However, we need the support and collaboration of other stakeholders to effectively discharge their duties.”

The NMA further called on the Lagos state government and all Nigerians to advise the CP on the possible implications of his statement as any harassment of their members will elicit a strong response from the Association.

The medical doctors further urged their members to remain vigilant and maintain a high index of suspicion.

The doctors also advised citizens to stay at home and observe all necessary precautions; we also reassure them that we shall available at work for them.

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