By Simon Ugwuenyi
Saying that the strike action embarked by the Association of Resident Doctors in Parklane Enugu, immediately after being paid April salary and 25 per cent Covid-19 pandemic allowance on April 24 is inhumane, illegal, ill-advised and insensitive is an understatement.
This is considering the fact that this is not the right time for any health worker to embark on strike and that the Parklane Resident Doctors embarked on the strike against a subsisting order of the Enugu Industrial Court which barred them from embarking on such strike without giving the state government 21 days notice and the recent order of the same court for Enugu State Government to commence contempt proceedings against the striking doctors.
But while the State Government has been diplomatic, eclectic and open to negotiations, renegotiations and dialogue to resolve the matter for the betterment and good working conditions for all medical/ health workers in the state and saving of lives, the Parklane striking resident doctors have been confrontational, belligerent and least expected more political and hypocritical than professional in their approach to the impasse.
This calls for serious concern and raises questions on what are these doctors’ real motive of embarking on the strike at this critical period of Covid-19 pandemic global health challenge that has destroyed and still recklessly destroying the world economy and human lives.
Even as the Enugu State Government is yet to commence contempt proceedings against the striking resident doctors as ordered by the Enugu Industrial Court, working and hoping for peaceful resolution of the issue, the striking Parklane Hospital resident doctors have in the spirit of espirit de corps recruited the services of the so-called Southeast Caucus of National Association of Nigeria Resident Doctors to blackmail, intimidate and armtwist Enugu State Government to accede to their impossible, greedy and untimely financial demands.
Instead of the Southeast Caucus of the National Association of Nigeria Resident Doctors to seek audience with the Enugu State Government to find out the real issue at stake and seek for its amicable resolution in tandem with realities on ground, the circumstances the world is in now with the ravaging covid-19 pandemic, the caucus quickly took side with their colleagues, resorted to doing a yeoman job for them by writing an open letter to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi levelling unfounded allegations, threatening fire and brimstones against his government and the entire governments in the southeast region.
Their threats include ordering their members across the southeast region to down tools for 72hours as warning strike from May 4 and to ask their members in Southeast region to embark on total and indefinite strike from May 11, 2020 and others.
With these callous and inconsiderate positions and threats at this trying time by the Southeast Caucus of the National Association Of Resident Doctors (NARD) in solidarity with their striking colleagues in Parklane Hospital Enugu, one needs no soothsayer to know that these set of doctors are not trained to save lives in line with the Hippocratic Oath they took, but to amass wealth, play politics with human lives and engage in childish activism to please their paymasters.
There is no doubt that these set of doctors are being led and controlled by a strong cartel outside their profession that are determined to put the lives of the entire Southeast people in jeopardy in the name of the 2023 politics in Enugu State. If not, why should the Southeast Caucus toe this hardline without being considerate of its dire consequences on the health of the people of the region, especially with the spikes in the rate of covid-19 cases in the region.
In case the Southeast Caucus of the National Association Of Resident Doctors are not being fed with the truth about the Enugu case.
These striking Parklane Hospital resident doctors they are solidarising with were in the meeting where a committee was set up by the Enugu State Government to look into and harmonise a sustainable working conditions and pay packages for all health and medical workers in the state to achieve professional harmony in the health sector in line with the present economic situation occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic.
The representatives of the Parklane Hospital resident doctors are members of the committee, so also the representatives of the Nurses and other health workers in the state.
The Trade Union Congress and Nigeria Labour Congress State Chairmen were involved. The legislative arm of Enugu State was represented by four members led by the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Edward Ubosi. They all had meeting.
The main problem is that the Parklane Hospital resident doctors are insisting that other health workers are not as important and as educated as they are. Haba, who is talking about importance at this trying period that all hands are on deck to combat the ravaging covid-19 pandemic? The question is whether one hand can tie a parcel. The answer is a definite NO.
The resident doctors need the senior consultants, nurses and cleaners, who are also on the frontline with them at this critical period of Covid-19 pandemic. What is good for the goose is delightful to the ganders.
The main question is whether this is the right time to declare a labour dispute when the world is being rattled by COVID-19 pandemic. The developed countries with their medical sophistication and enough funds to fight the pandemic is being overwhelmed by the problem.
Globally, efforts are being made by all and sundry to save human lives from the Covid-19 virus, people are selflessly donating their hard-earned money to save lives, but Parklane Enugu Hospital resident doctors are here asking for increase in their 70 per cent CONMESS to 100 per cent.
How many state tertiary health institution is paying 100 per cent CONMESS before now, apart from few states that are financially bouyant with huge Internally Generated Revenues and monthly Federation allocation. Even state and federal governments are not paying the same minimum wage. Minimum wage across the states differs also. It depends on what was arrived at after the consequential adjustment was carried out between the state government and the labour union.
Many state governments unilaterally did the consequential adjustment and fixed what they will pay as minimum wage without consulting the labour union and the workers accepted it in good faith without embarking on strike.
Enugu State Government consulted widely with labour union on minimum wage and agreed on something meaningful which they have commenced implementation in February.
Parklane Hospital resident doctors are employees of Enugu State Government. They are not employers of themselves. They are not independent of the Enugu State Government and the challenges the state government, governments all over the world and companies are facing now financially.
Many state governments are not paying their resident doctors 100 per cent CONMESS and their doctors have not embarked on strike.
Why is that Parklane Enugu resident doctors are adamant at this trying period and have rebuffed all pleas to return to work? This is a wrong time for any worker no matter his or her work to be asking for increased pay package. It is impossible.
Across the world now, workers are massively losing jobs, companies are closing offices and salaries are being slashed by 50 per cent in line with the global economic challenges triggered by Covid-19 pandemic. Nigeria is not exempted as one of the commercial banks has closed 450 branches, sacked workers and slashed salaries by 40 per cent. Others may follow suit soon.
Some state governments like Ekiti, Oyo and Kaduna have slashed salary of political appointments and workers. Nothing says that Enugu State may not toe the line in the days ahead, because it is not insulated from prevailing global financial challenges.
With the realities on ground, these resident doctors especially in those in state tertiary health institutions will soon beg for the retention and sustenance of their present working conditions. It is just a matter of weeks. The economic is shrinking. The government revenue is dwindling as crude oil is not selling and lockdown is seriously affecting government (IGR )
The Parklane Hospital resident doctors have embarked in a war at a wrong time. They should expect nothing than vilifications, condemnations and regrets. No sane, patriotic or altruistic person is and will be sympathetic to their cause of strike action which had been hijacked and politicised already.
Hope they are aware that in Lagos at least 100 doctors and other health workers have volunteered their services in order to save humanity.
Whatever agreement the state government have with the resident doctors of ESUTH parklane before now is not important now with the way things are in the world and Nigeria in particular today.
After all, the law of contract can be easily altered with the emergence and effects of natural disasters.
The striking Parklane Hospital resident doctors should approach the issue professionally, conscientiously and ethically and stop making mockery of themselves and at the same time dragging their profession to the mud.
The questions they should ponder on include; are they fighting and punishing the governor and members of his cabinet?
Are they fighting and punishing the Speaker of the State House of Assembly and the members of the House? Are they fighting and punishing the Chief Judge and the judges ? Are they fighting and punishing the ALGON Chairman and other Local government Chairmen in the State?
Are they fighting and punishing the unborn babies and their mothers? Are they fighting and punishing the innocent new born babies, the children and their mothers? Are they fighting and punishing the elderly and pensioners who contributed directly and indirectly in bringing them to the stage to practice as doctors?
God having created us in His image, are they fighting and punishing God indirectly. Can they fight and punish God ?
I just remembered Liberia in the course of this article. Diamond every where, blood diamond they called it then. In the world today there is death every where. COVID-19 every where.
Are the Parklane resident doctors armtwisting the state government after suddenly reading about Liberia and the blood Diamond. Are they preparing their vaults for BLOOD money. Questions and more questions for the striking Parklane Hospital resident doctors as food-for- thoughts.