Nasarawa Medical Workers, COVID-19 And The Rest Of Us

BY RAYYANU BALA

While hosting national officers of the Nasarawa State University Keffi (NSUK) alumni association last Thursday at Government House Lafia, Governor Abdullahi A. Sule was quoted as assuring the people of the state of his government’s determination to train indigenous doctors as part of measures to forestall hijacking of the medical profession by persons who have little or no understanding of the challenges Nasarawa state is facing.
Gov Sule who spoke against the background of the on-going strike action embarked upon by medical workers in the state, lamented the high level of insensitivity demonstrated by striking medical doctors in the state who demanded implementation of promotions for the past ten years.

While describing as “painful” the action of medical workers in Nasarawa state, Gov Sule further stressed, “a situation where the striking doctors working in public hospitals chose to remain adamant, amidst corona virus scourge, leaving the people of the state to suffer needless hardships is most unfortunate”.
Yes, Governor Abdullahi A. Sule has every reason to feel disappointed and sad with medical workers for embarking on strike at this time when all hands are supposed to be on deck to curb the spread of COVID- 19 in Nasarawa state. The action of medical doctors is nothing but the height of carelessness and a negation of the basic principles of their noble profession. Lest I be misunderstood, medical doctors have every right to embark on strike, strike is a weapon available to workers to press home their demands or grievances. Of course, expression of grievances by workers from any angle we look at it, is legitimate. There is indeed, no contesting this fact. Labour laws explicitly state that workers have the right to go on strike for better conditions of service.

But as they say, in every rule there are exceptions and the exception here is that given the situation the country finds itself in today occasioned by the corona virus scourge, medical doctors have lost their right to go on strike. It is abnormal and insensitive to the mood of the nation for workers to go on strike talk less of medical workers who are supposed to be at the frontline due to their calling. For declaring strike at this time, medical workers in Nasarawa state have exhibited absolute disregard for the lives of the people; the very lives which their vocation says they must protect at all cost. For going on strike, medical workers have betrayed the ethics of their profession.
An international Journal of Medicine, volume 100, issue number 9 of September 2007, pages 585-589 talked much about role of the physician in preservation of life. Worthy of note is that by the rule of engagement, for every individual physician, his contractual and moral obligation is to his patient. Human life itself has dignity and it is the duty of doctors to preserve such life. Since the declaration of this strike, only God knows the number of patients that have passed on and gone into distress.

Against these sorrowful situations, one cannot but align oneself with the observation made by Governor Abdullahi A. Sule on the urgent need for the government of Nasarawa state to commence training of indigenous doctors in order to forestall hijacking of medical profession by some individuals who being non-indigenes are indifferent to our plight as a people in Nasarawa state.

As observed elsewhere here, medical doctors have the right to go on strike but the timing and the circumstance does not warrant the declaration of the strike by doctors in Nasarawa state health facilities. The questions begging for answers at this juncture are: why declare a strike at this material time? Why demand for implementation of promotions for the past ten years at this material time? Agreed government is a continuum, but for medical doctors to choose this period to demand for implementation of promotions for the past ten years is not only callous but an attempt to hamstrung the efforts of government at providing good healthcare to people and curtailing the spread of corona virus in Nasarawa state.

Apart from thwarting the efforts of government, the medical doctors are by their actions also trying to blackmail the government. Yes, this is pure blackmail or else why choose the most critical period, the period when their services are needed most to declare a strike and on issues that are not the creation of the present administration?
Every discerning mind in Nasarawa state cannot but conclude that the action of the medical doctors is intended to discredit the present government and project it in bad light. The health of the people is paramount and no government will succumb to blackmail or allow itself to be projected in bad light on matters that has to do with the health of its citizenry.
Equally no serious-minded citizen of Nasarawa state will question the rationale behind government’s intension to commence training of indigenous doctors, considering how some medical doctors are subjecting our people to endless sufferings for simple reasons that are personal to them. We urge Government to go ahead with these plans as time is of the essence.

In the meantime, government should also explore ways and means of ending the strike before it creates more havoc. As a first step towards this, government should direct the immediate payment of June salary to all striking medical workers and the on going negotiations sustained with spirit of give and take as guiding principles by both sides.