BY Akume Raphael, MAKURDI
The association of residents Doctors Benue state university chapter has decried the sacked of its members by the management of Benue state university teaching hospital saying it is uncalled for at times like this.
Briefing members of the press, the president of the association, Dr. Onyewuchi Amina Japheth called on the university management to call back the sack Doctors with a immediately.
“The world is at a standstill today as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. World over, countries are putting together measures to ensure that they are ready to fight the pandemic. Due to the way the disease is transmitted, people are advised to stay at home. Governments have shutdown public places, markets, offices and schools in order to curtail this virus”.
Dr. Onyewuchi said, On the other hand, while everywhere is being shut down, the hospitals have remained open and health workers mobilised to care for sick people during this period. Due to the seriousness of the situation, retired doctors have been forced out of retirement to return to work, to save humanity.
It is however unfortunate that rather than put these measures in place like in other places, the management of Benue State University Teaching Hospital, is rather sacking medical doctors. Not just doctors but some of her more experienced hands.
The management has given over 30 doctors sack letters; have rescinded some letters and have also upheld others in a haphazard and subjective manner that doesn’t not just follow the laws regulating the service of resident doctors in Nigeria, but is also a disservice to the suffering people of Benue State.
The training of resident doctors in Nigeria is regulated by the 2017 medical residency training act (MRTA) which is very explicit of how a doctor should enter and leave residency training. The Act allows resident doctors to train and pass all exams over an eight and half to nine year period as against the six years that the management of Benue State University Teaching Hospital wants to impose on resident doctors here.
The Act also empowers the National Postgraduate Medical College (NPMCN) as the only body who can recommend resident doctors for exit from the residency program on the grounds of duration. The NPMCN sends the names of resident doctors due to exit the training every six months to training institutions. Their last of such letters was on the 10th of March, 2020 and none of the residents in Benue State University Teaching Hospital was listed for exit. Where then is the management getting the powers to sack resident doctors?
If there was any doubt, the management of BSUTH should borrow a leaf from her sister health institution, Federal Medical Centre Makurdi where the 2017 MRTA has been adopted is being used. No resident doctor who has spent less than eight years has been sacked. Of course, the NPMCN will not recommend such residents for exit.
Many of the doctors being told their time has expired have not been sent by the management for mandatory postings they are to undergo before completing their programs. This, the management blames on the gross shortage of doctors in this hospital. Our doctors have their training stagnated (some for over 3 years) by the management, only to be issued sack letters that their time is done, when it was the fault of the management who refused to release them for those postings.
Also, management have refused to take into account the periods when some departments did not have/ lost accreditation and resident doctors were not able to go for exams. All the lost time, the management has factored into their purported six year residency program.
Additionally, the sponsorship of resident doctors for update courses and exams has been ignored by the management of BSUTH, leaving resident doctors to their fate. The last time a resident doctor was given full sponsorship in this hospital was 5 years ago.
We have approached the management severally over this issue to no avail. We made a presentation to the hospital board, making an argument for the adoption and full implementation of the 2017 MRTA as obtainable everywhere else in Nigeria but fell on deaf ears.
We have co-opted the State Chapter of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), BSUTH to intervene in the issue to avert crisis, especially at these times, however their effort is yet to yield fruit.
We sought the attention of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Tony Ijohor who had mediated between the association and the state government in other issues. We are yet to see the effect of his intervention.
We have sought unsuccessfully to get the attention of the Executive Governor of Benue State, His Excellency, Dr Samuel Ortom who, we believe, has the best interest of the health sector and indeed doctors at heart.
Our parent body, the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has written to the Chief Medical Director, Professor Terrumun Swende, to reconsider their stand as it is not in accordance with the existing laws regulating the residency program in Nigeria, but there was no response.
This issue has dragged on for a long time, and we have written several letters to this effect and have also given ultimatum in the past concerning this matter. We are now left with no choice than to consider downing tools, however as it is our custom, we have the Benue people at heart.
It will interest you to know that during the escalated Herdsmen killings of 2017/2018, while other health workers in the state were on a two-year long strike, our members stayed behind to work all through that period in order to save the lives of the Benue people. We have been pivotal in the treatment of IDPs and victims of disasters like the gas explosions in Ushongo and Gwer local government areas of the state.
It is in the interest of Benue people, especially in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, that we have decided against the immediate commencement of an industrial action even though this matter warrants it. We have rather chosen to give a 21 day ultimatum, after which we will have no choice than to opt for an indefinite strike action.
The association made the following demands:
A. The immediate withdrawal of sack letters issued resident doctors and reinstatement of those already sacked;
B. The adoption and full implementation of the 2017 MRTA as currently obtainable in training institutions across Nigeria.
They further stated that within these 21 days of our ultimatum, the amiable Executive Governor of Benue State, Dr Samuel Ortom; His Royal Majesty, the Tor Tiv V, Orchiviligh Professor J. O. Ayatse, the Och’Idoma His Royal Highness, Agabaidu Elias Ikoyi Obekpa, and all other well-meaning sons and daughters of Benue State will prevail on the management of Benue State University Teaching Hospital to yield to these demands, in the interest of residency training, the medical profession and the healthcare of our people.
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