Members of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) have been roundly condemned for their ongoing indefinite strike with residents of Umuahia, the capital city of Abia describing the strike as an “ego trip.”
Respondents who spoke with THISDAY were united in their condemnation of the medical doctors, noting that their motives for the strike were unconvincing as the reasons adduced for embarking on the strike bordered on ego contest between the medical practitioners and other health professionals.
“It is unfortunate that medical doctors have in their selfishness reduced themselves to cry babies and on any flimsy excuse abandons their patients,” said Chief Okorafor Isaac, a businessman.
He also faulted the timing of the strike in view of the present security challenges in the country whereby innocent Nigerians are killed or maimed by terrorist bombings.
Another resident, Mrs. Amaka Kalu, noted that it was not proper for doctors “to put patients at risk” because of the unhealthy rivalry among the professionals in the health sector, adding that the issues at stake “is laughable and meaningless”.
“This strike is unacceptable. No reasonable and well meaning Nigerian would clap for NMA for abandoning their patients because they don’t want other health professional to be promoted as consultants or directors in their own fields,” she said.
However the chairman of Abia State branch of NMA, Dr. Gad Uzoaga stoutly defended the position of the association, saying that the federal government should be blamed for encouraging “anarchy” in the health sector by acceding to the demands of other heath professionals to rob shoulders with medical doctors.
Speaking with newsmen in Umuahia yesterday the Abia NMA chairman said other unions operating in the health sector have entered into “unholy alliance against doctors and making things difficult for us by agitating for things that don’t belong to them.”
According to him, government had not helped matters by granting the requests of other health professionals without considering the feelings of doctors, citing the appointment of consultants, which “is not proper because the position of consultant is the prerogative of “medical doctors who owns the patients.”
He also said it was improper for other health unions to agitate that any person in the health sector could be appointed to head the hospital as medical director, saying that “it is not proper” because just as non-academic staff are not appointed vice-chancellors in the universities non-medical doctors should not head hospitals.
“There are what we call ancient landmarks in the health profession and these are the things they want to shift and that will not be in the interest of the people,” Dr Uzoaga said, adding that the NMA had over the years tried to resolve the issues amicably without government cooperating.
Meanwhile patients and their relatives have been gripped by despondency as the strike entered its second day. At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Umuahia, patients were left unattended to by medical doctors while the NMA chairman said the patients “are free” to seek medical attention in private hospitals.
At the female ward, relatives of a patient who underwent surgical operation last Friday were seen bemoaning their plight after they were advised to take her home whereas “it is difficult to lift the patient from her bed when the stitches have not been removed.”
However at the Abia State Specialist Hospital Umuahia, only house doctors were seen attending to patients as senior doctors and consultants had all stayed away from the hospital.