The Lagos State government yesterday defended its decision to lay off striking 788 doctors.
It said the decision, though painful, was necessary and taken for the public good. The government also ruled out any further negotiation with the sacked doctors, saying those interested in abiding by the rules could appeal for consideration.
Commissioner for Health Dr. Jide Idris who spoke yesterday denied that hospitals in the state were totally grounded by the doctors’ strike, saying 746 doctors were at work providing qualitative medical service and saving lives. Those ones are to be joined by the newly employed 373 medics, he added.
Dr. Idris, who spoke at the secretariat in Alausa said: “though every employee has a right to down tools to call attention of his employer to his plight, that shouldn’t be at the expense of the laid- down rules and at the expense of innocent people’s lives,” adding, “we must restore health services back to our facilities and prevent deaths.”
He said the government bent over backwards to accommodate the excesses of the striking doctors while exploring all avenues for dialogue. He regretted that the striking doctors remained adamant.
The Commissioner said as part of the avenues that was employed to resolve the differences, the leadership of the House of Assembly held a meeting with both parties, noting that the striking doctors insulted members of the panel and the meeting ended abruptly.
He said newly employed doctors would blend with the others to provide qualitative and efficient service.
Idris said government was open to dialogue but noted that preserving the lives of Lagosians was paramount.
He said having taken a bold step to employ new doctors to take over the vacant positions, there are presently about 1,059 doctors to attend to patients in need of medical attention.
Dr. Idris described the threat by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to revoke the licences of the newly recruited doctors as mere intimidation; saying only the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) has the power to decide on discipline in the the medical profession. . “The NMA does not grant Medical licences; it is the MDCN that grants medical licensces. And granting of the Medical licences is subject to your qualification in the medical school”, he said.
He added that the NMA ought to be an association of medical professionals who should uphold the dignity of the profession.
Head of Service (HOS) Adesegun Ogunlewe said officers dismissed from service have no place for negotiation. He said they could only appeal to the governor for reconsideration.
Ogunlewe said it was “cruel and callous” of the doctors to neglect their patients and embark on an illegal strike. He said government had met some of the issues they raised.
The HOS said the doctors by their action, violated rules and regulations, leaving the government with no option but to salvage the situation. He said: “If you go on an illegal strike, it is as good as someone who absented himself from work without permission and there are laid down rules for that.
“I released a circular to bring the attention of all workers to the Trade Dispute Act and it was clear that government intended to henceforth enforce the content of that Trade Dispute Act, the consequence of the illegalities of their actions is what they are reaping now.
“The state government holds all health workers in very high esteem including doctors. However, in a democracy, the rule of law must always prevail , particularly in a public service where we have age-long rules and regulations that have been guiding the performance of every member irrespective of their performance within the service”.
Source: The Nation