Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The Anambra state commissioner for information and public enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba, has described the planned industrial action of the medical consultants association of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital Amaku Awka as unnecessary.
Adinuba made the position of the state government clear in a 9-point press statement released to journalists yesterday in Awka.
He said the plot of an industrial disharmony would be counterproductive especially as the present administration was on the verge of addressing the demands of the association.
The commissioner was of the opinion that should the association succeed in its plot to paralyse activities at the teaching hospital, the casualties of such decision would be citizens of the state who might not be able to afford the exorbitant medical bills of private health facilities.
The statement reads, “On May 13, 2019, the Association of Residents Doctors at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital (COOUTH) at Amaku, Awka, went on a strike to press for a substantial salary increase and provision of more facilities at the hospital.
“The strike ended following the intervention of Governor Willie Obiano who even set up a committee headed by an independent consultant to look into the demands but also seek ways to make COOUTH a more competitive teaching hospital.
“The committee was scheduled to hold its final meeting yesterday (Tuesday, October 29, 2019) before sending its report to the governor for consideration. Officers of the medical consultants association were informed accordingly. It is, therefore, surprising that while the meeting was about to start, the association’s officials decided to hold a press conference in Awka where they threatened to go on a one-week warning strike if their demands were not met immediately.
“Most members of the public are convinced that the press conference was a mere attempt to stampede the committee to accept uncritically its demands and recommend them to the governor for immediate implementation. Neither the news conference nor the threat was necessary. Both the government and resident doctors are basically on the same page.
“Governor Obiano has accepted that the state of affairs at the state teaching hospital is not good enough. He has directed that all doctors, and not just those doing their residency work there, who have not enjoyed any promotion in the last seven years be promoted subject to the required process.
“The failure to promote them all these long years has to do with the absence of conditions of service in the hospital. To rectify this error and ensure it never reoccurs, a committee of COOATH senior staff was set up to work out how it could be done and the board approved it. The governor has graciously accepted it, too. The implementation will start soon.
“Each party accepts that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital is currently being equipped in a way that will soon make it very competitive. For instance, it now hosts the biggest state-owned oxygen plant in Nigeria following Gov Obiano’s inauguration on August 8, 2019, of the N500m Anambra State Oxygen Plant, the biggest of such a facility owned by any state government in Nigeria. COOUTH also has the only Mother Child Chevron Referral Hospital in the Southeast.
“What is more, it has the only mega laboratory in the Southeast, meaning the lab has the capacity to take up to 500 samples of specimen simultaneously. In addition, it now has CT Scan and mammography. It also now does digital X-Ray. The MRI facility is on the way. Its private ward will open in December, boosting its revenue base. Most of its middle and high income patients frequently move to private hospitals because they need privacy which is not currently available.
“The current Anambra State administration has been working hard to provide basic requirements for the medical school on account of the chequered history of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital. It started as a cottage hospital and when the current Anambra State was created in 1991 it was upgraded to a general hospital.
“The Peter Obi administration declared it a medical school in 2012, but did little to make it truly look like one. As a result, it could not earn accreditation from the Medical and Dental Registration Council of Nigeria. The medical students could graduate only when Gov Obiano provided the necessary facilities, funds and qualified staff. We are proud that a medical school which could not earn accreditation for the training of mere medical officers only four years ago is now training would-be medical consultants.
“The Anambra State Government accepts that the salary structure of the COOUTH doctors is not attractive enough. As is public knowledge, it has consequently asked the independent committee looking into the state of affairs at the teaching hospital to recommend ways to enhance the take-home pay of these doctors. To ensure greater autonomy for the health facility, the committee has also been tasked with finding ways to increase the medical school’s capacity for internal revenue generation. The committee finished its work this morning and is about to submit its report to the governor.
“In consideration of the facts stated above, we reiterate that it is not necessary for the association of medical consultants at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital to contemplate any strike.
“The issues in question are being resolved amicably. All ndi Anambra enjoin officers of this association to ensure that the excellent industrial relations in Anambra State, which are part of the unrivalled scale of social harmony in the state, are sustained.
“Should they carry out the threat of a strike, the greatest casualties will certainly be the most vulnerable in our society. The casualties will be men and women, including children, with serious ailments and condition who cannot afford the high bills charged by private hospitals.
“All of us in Anambra State have a responsibility to make our state remain the Light of the Nation.”