The Anambra State Government might have resolved to take a punitive measure against the striking doctors of the state-owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), as state governor Willie Obiano has allegedly threatened to sack all the consultants involved in the industrial action.
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The threat by the governor is said to have been prompted by the non commencement of medical examinations on Monday in all departments of the hospital due to the absence of many of the consultants, who are also lecturers in the faculty of medicine.
A reliable source in government told newsmen that Governor Obiano was unhappy that the consultants, numbering about 57, had joined resident doctors in the strike, a development that had paralyzed all services in the hospital.
In a swift reaction, however, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) Anambra State chapter, said the doctors were not afraid of the governor’s threat as they were used to such pronouncements.
The government source said the governor had reminded the striking doctors that they have no existing conditions of service and that the demand they were making from the state government was out of place, as the state government had only begun to work out conditions of service for workers of the hospital in line with existing conditions in other teaching hospitals across Nigeria.
“From what is happening, it would appear that the doctors’ strike was being fueled from outside by politicians because, despite the governor’s promise that he was working out improved conditions of service for the doctors, they have remained adamant,” the source said.
“Their action may force the governor to sack all of them and recruit new ones who would then enjoy the conditions of service that is in the making.”
At the commencement of the strike, Governor Obiano had held a meeting with the leadership of the NARD, COOUTH chapter, promising to look into their grievances as soon as the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) had improved, a proposal that was rejected by the NARD.
However, in their reaction yesterday, NARD president at the hospital, Dr Obinna Aniagboso, said the union was not afraid of the governor’s threat, advising the state government to “toe the path of peace.”
“I heard the governor made such threat, but I think that would for the consultants. Sometime in May, he asked us to resume work or be sacked. But things don’t work that way in industrial relations,” Aniagboso said.
“Some state governments that took similar decisions in the past regretted their action when the consequences came.
“The Nigerian Medical Association had warned at several times that no doctor should take up appointments in this circumstance. So, the threat to sack us and employ new doctors to replace us is not tenable.
“I advise the state government to toe the path of peace and resolve this issue amicably, instead of issuing threats.”
Aniagbaso stressed that the doctors were not happy that the governor was tying their conditions of service to improved IGR, insisting on full payment of their salary to bring them to par with resident doctors in other teaching hospitals in the country.
The implementation of the new conditions of service, he insisted, should commence from April 2019, warning that the NARD would no longer continue to receive 50 per cent of their salary because most of the doctors were languishing in penury with no progress for those in residency training.
“Unfortunately, we have been pushed to the wall for a long time and bruised, and efforts to redress the situation have proved abortive,” he said.