Strike: Over 200 Lagos Doctors Infected With COVID-19 – Medical Guild

The Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, flanked by his colleagues at a press conference in Lagos on July 12, 2020.

 

No fewer than 200 doctors in Lagos State have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19) in the line of duty.

This is according to the Medical Guild in its response to an earlier statement from the state government on the ongoing warning strike by doctors in the state.

In a statement jointly signed by the association’s Chairman and Secretary, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo and Dr Ismail Ajibowo, on Tuesday, the group said the government was aware of the situation.

It decried that while members were committed to their duties, a large number of those who tested positive have infected members of their families.

The guild also accused the government of making attempts to portray it as being unprofessional and casting untrue impression that the strike was masterminded by a few members of the association.

READ ALSO: Lagos Responds To Medical Guild’s Demands, Asks Doctors To Resume Work

It, however, stressed that the association has an objective to cater for the welfare of its members and provide world-class medical services to the people.

According to the statement, the guild has been seeking priority testing for all healthcare workers and patients on admission in hospitals.

It explained that this was necessary to improve the provision of safe medical services, but the government had ignored its call – one of the reasons for the decision to go on strike.

File: Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, speaks during an interview on Sunrise Daily on January 28, 2020.

 

The statement comes a day after the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos, Gbenga Omotoso, faulted the decision of the doctors to go on strike and asked them to return to work.

He had accused the association of making wrong claims, stressing that the government had been extremely supportive of health workers, especially those at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19.

Read the full statement from the Medical Guild below:

PRESS RELEASE AS A RESPONSE TO THE RELEASE BY THE LAGOS STATE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION ON THE MEDICAL GUILD 3 DAY WARNING STRIKE

The Medical Guild wants to use this medium to respond to the Press release of the 13th July 2020 by the Ministry of Information on the 3-day warning strike which started on the13th of July 2020.

The association noted with regrets the attempts to paint the association as being unprofessional and casting untrue impression that the strike is being masterminded by a few members of the Medical Guild.

The Medical Guild is a professional body with well-skilled members, an affiliate of NMA with the aim of catering for the welfare of its members and providing world-class medical services to Lagosians, Nigerians, and foreigners.

Since its inception in 1926, it has been at the forefront of innovative strides and collaborative efforts with Government on the issue of health sector development and progress. The Guild attempted all within its powers to prevent the strike.

We start by drawing the attention of the government that more than 200 medical doctors who are members of the Guild have been infected with COVID-19, many of whom also infected their families with attendant short and long-term complications. This is a testament to our desire to serve our patients and our calling.

The Guild had also been at the forefront of advocating for priority testing for all health care workers and patients on admission in hospitals so as to up scale provision of safe medical services, suggestions which had been largely jettisoned until the declaration of strike action.

On the specific issues raised about the wages, salaries, and emoluments, we are happy that the LASG has now agreed that our federal counterparts in the same state earn much more than doctors working with Lagos State and this situation has been going on for years without a definitive action from government to bridge the gaps.

Apart from the fact that there are security implications of releasing remuneration of employees publicly, the LASG has maintained that they have no agreement with the COVID-19 volunteers at the isolation centre, hence government has been paying any amount deemed fit, usually after agitations.

The Federal Government on the other hand had earlier engaged the various medical/health associations in discussions and came up with a negotiated agreement and we expect the same to be done to our members in Lagos State, especially as we are the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The increased hazard allowance which was quoted as being increased by over 400 percent translates to an increase from 5,000 naira to 25,000 naira.

We assure that our principal objective is to get the necessary attention of Mr Governor to resolve these challenges in order to continue the peaceful harmonious relationship with government for the delivery of qualitative healthcare services to the populace with positive development in the health sector.

Our motto had been to present, engage, negotiate, and then implement which is the only panacea to preventing disruption of services in the health sector.

We will continue to do all we can to deescalate the situation and continue discussion and negotiations with  government, especially at this time of COVID-19, while urging the relevant ministries and agencies of government to imbibe the spirit of engagement and negotiation so that Lagosians can continue to enjoy uninterrupted healthcare services delivery.

We conclude by appreciating the efforts of Mr Governor, Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and other eminent Lagosians like the First Lady, Dr (Mrs) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu; His Royal Highness, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu; Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and well-meaning Nigerians.

Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo

Chairman.

Dr Ismail Ajibowo

Secretary.

Lagos Responds To Medical Guild’s Demands, Asks Doctors To Resume Work

The Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, flanked by his colleagues at a press conference in Lagos on July 12, 2020.

 

The Lagos State government has responded to the issues raised by members of the Medical Guild who are on a three-day warning strike.

In a statement on Monday, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, faulted the decision of the doctors to embark on industrial action and asked them to return to work.

He explained that this was because the government had convened a meeting with stakeholders in the health sector over the issues raised.

Omotoso said that despite wrong claims by the guild, the government has been extremely supportive of health workers, especially those at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19.

He added that the government has started paying extra special COVID-19 allowances for frontline workers who were involved directly with the Lagos State COVID-19 Response.

READ ALSO: Lagos Doctors To Begin Warning Strike

File: Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, speaks during an interview on Sunrise Daily on January 28, 2020.

 

On the disparity in doctors’ salaries, the commissioner attributed it to the skipping policy adopted by some federal institutions, as the new minimum wage in Lagos placed all members of the state above the federal level.

The doctors had raised concerns over heavy taxation of health workers, request for residential quarters, hazard allowance for health workers, and COVID-19 insurance cover, among other things.

Omotoso, responded to each issue raised and assured the residents that while negotiation was ongoing, services at all state-owned health facilities could still be accessed.

Read the full statement below:

LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & STRATEGY

PRESS STATEMENT

LAGOS ADDRESSES MEDICAL GUILD GRIEVANCES

 

Urges Striking Doctors To Return Back To Work

 

A joint meeting between the Honourable Commissioners for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Establishments, Training and Pensions, Mrs Ajibola Ponnle and the Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola as well as all the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Health, Establishment and Information, was held on Sunday the 12th July, with the Medical Guild, Association of Resident Doctors and relevant stakeholders on the proposed warning strike.

The meeting was convened at the instance of the Hon. Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions after a series of meetings held at the instance of the Head of Service on behalf of stakeholders in the State Government with the representatives of the Medical Guild, National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD), LASUTH branch and other relevant stakeholders to deliberate on the issues underlying the strike called by the Medical Guild.

The Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo who appreciated the government for convening the meeting outlined the position of the Guild on the various issues which include; Shortage of doctors in the State, Heavy Taxation of Health Workers, Request for Residential Quarters, Entry Point Skipping Policy for Doctors, Hazard Allowance for Health Workers, COVID-19 Insurance Cover, Medical Residency Programme, Personal Protection Equipment, Involvement of the Guild in COVID-19 Response Committee amongst others.

It is pertinent to note that the State Government expresses extreme disappointment that the Guild continued with their warning strike despite a series of engagements with the State Government aimed at resolving some of the grievances raised, noting that many issues have already been resolved, whilst unresolved issues are still being deliberated upon.

It is worrisome that some members of this noble profession would down tool at a time when their services are mostly required. We believe this action is insensitive and lacks empathy which our profession epitomises.

The State Government, therefore, requests the members of the medical Guild who embarked on a three-day warning strike today to return back to work.

It is therefore imperative to correctly state the facts and action on the major issues raised by the Guild with respect to some issues affecting the frontline and indeed all health care personnel.

Health workers being unceremoniously dismissed from the isolation centres.

Mr Governor has been extremely supportive of health workers being mindful of the extreme sacrifices that healthcare professionals are demonstrating in the COVID-19 response. We are currently rotating our health workers who are engaged in providing care at the isolation facilities. They are not being dismissed; this is wrong information. Healthcare professionals are returning to their primary posting for the following reasons:

To reduce fatigue and burn out amongst health workers

To build capacity for treatment of COVID-19 across the health workforce

To ensure that as many health workers as possible benefit from the additional allowances

Non-payment of COVID19 Allowances for May and June

LASG started paying extra special COVID-19 allowances for frontline workers who are involved directly with the Lagos State COVID-19 response. This was put in place before any other State in the nation with payments as high as N672,000 per month in addition to their normal remuneration packages for each cadre and which represents financial incentives over and above that paid by the Federal counterparts.

In fact, where discrepancies exist between Federal and State allowances, Lagos State has paid the difference to ensure parity. Payments for March and April were made on time however in order to ensure uniformity and accuracy of the allowances, due diligence measures had to be put in place before subsequent month’s payments were approved.

As we speak, these payments have been approved and being received by the workforce. Additionally, all healthcare professionals receive a hazard allowance which has been temporarily increased by 400% at the discretion of Mr Governor periodically during this period.

Disparity in Salary for Doctors

The Skipping Policy adopted by some Federal institutions is responsible for this, as the new Minimum wage in Lagos State places all members of the State above the Federal level. Information received from Federal Government Medical Centres indicates that the Skipping Policy which places the Federal counterparts one Grade Level above the State is the basis of this disparity.

It is important to note that this is not in conformity with the Scheme of Service agreed by the National Council of Establishment and is a subject of litigation in the Federal Court of Appeal and therefore the State Government cannot implement such a policy until Judgment is delivered.

Heavy Taxation of Health Workers

It was made clear to the Guild that the Personal Income Tax Act is standard to all and calculated on the basis of the tax table. A meeting has been scheduled with Officials of LIRS for this week with a view to exploring ways of reducing the tax burden. Mr Governor has also approved the exemption of the Hazard allowance from tax for State health workers.

The Lagos State government, recognizing that the State is at the epicenter of the COVID pandemic in the nation has gone over and beyond its duty of care to ensure that the welfare of the Medical workers in the State is placed as top priority. Apart from the above measures, the following measures have also been put in place:

Fast track testing of Health workers

One day, every week, has been set aside exclusively for testing healthcare professionals and a senior staff of the lab has been assigned to it. Emergency testing of health workers can be arranged by a call to the officer in charge of health worker testing in the lab.

Separate isolation centre for health workers who test positive – an isolation centre has been opened in Agidingbi to cater exclusively for the care of healthcare professionals.

Inclusion of Medical Guild in Emmergency Operation Center (EOC) – The members of the Guild have always been part of the EOC, and their participation has been strengthened recently.

House officers April Increment in hazard allowance – all house officers. They have all been paid an increase in hazard allowance.

Accommodation of Health Workers – From the beginning of COVID19 we have accommodated all frontline health workers in hotels at great cost and provided three meals a day and transportation to and from the hotel

Insurance for health workers – All frontline health workers in isolation centres have been insured by a consortium of insurance companies. All Lagos State civil servants including all health workers have been insured by LASACO. This represents double insurance over and above standard civil service insurance.

Shortage of health workers – Mr Governor has given approval for Health Service Commission to employ over 760 health workers of which at least 400 are doctors.

However, due to the pandemic, we have had to adjust the recruitment procedure, but the process is ongoing and we are expecting to conclude the first batch of recruitment within a month from now.

Construction of Doctors Quarters in LASUTH – work has commenced to ensure Doctor’s Quarters are built in LASUTH as well as a new strategic policy to increase and improve housing across all State Secondary Healthcare Facilities.

 

The State government will continue to play its part in ensuring the battle over COVID is won, under the able leadership of Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and urge the Guild to continue to take full advantage of the dispute resolution processes provided by the State to resolve all issues bearing in mind that these are unusual times for the nation and the entire world.

The government, therefore, wishes to assure citizens that while negotiation is ongoing, services at all state-owned health facilities can still be accessed.

Signed

Mr Gbenga Omotoso

Commissioner for Information & Strategy

13th July 2020

Lagos Doctors Begin Indefinite Strike

Lagos doctorsMedical doctors working for the Lagos State Government on Monday began an indefinite strike over several protracted issues with the state government.

The Lagos doctors, under the aegis of the Medical Guild, are aggrieved over issues which include alleged engagement of doctors as casual workers and the withholding of doctors’ salaries for May 2012 and from August to September 2014 over the doctors involvement in industrial action.

Meanwhile the state government has described the current strike as illegal, just like the former one.

In a press statement signed by the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, the government says it is a fact that those health workers who did not work during the stated period were not paid.

This, Mr Ibirogba said is in line with the “no work no pay rule” policy of the government which is in accordance with international employment practices and the Trade Disputes Act.

He therefore advised the Lagos doctors to resume at their respective duty positions while discussions with the state government are ongoing.

Fed Govt. Advises On Cholera Outbreak

The Federal Government has advised persons living in rural communities to desist from acts of open defecation, saying it is largely responsible for the outbreak and spread of cholera.

Speaking in Abuja at the 2013 Annual Physicians’ Week organised by the Nigerian Medical Association, the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu decried the number of deaths recorded through cholera as 74 persons have so far been confirmed dead, out of 333 cases reported.

Professor Chukwu appealed to states and local government authorities to scale up their sensitization campaign in order to arrest the spread of cholera and other communicable diseases.

Lagos doctor’s strike is illegal

Empty hospital.......no doctors

The Lagos state government has described the three days warning strike by medical doctors that has commenced in the state’s medical institution as illegal.

The Commissioner for Special duties, Dr Wale Ahmed told Channels Television that there has been no written notices before the strike commenced as stipulated by labour laws.

“There was supposed to be a fifteen day notice before the strike  but we only heard of the strike verbally” stated Dr Ahmed.

The Lagos state Head of Service has also warned that any doctor that participate in the strike will not be paid fees accruable during the period.

There are 24 general hospitals owned by the Lagos state government and patients who visit the clinics as from today will not get services from the doctors who are embarking on a three day warning strike under the aegis of the Medical Guild.

According to the Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote,  the doctors were forced to embark on the industrial action  following the failure of the state government to implement the wage agreement it reached with the union.

“The state government has continued to fool the doctors with what he described as ‘flimsy excuses’ not to pay the approved and signed salary structure by Governor Babatunde Fashola. It is unfortunate the state government has refused to prevent the strike” said dr Odusote.

Members of the Medical Guild had threatened to embark on the warning strike to press home their demands for the full implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, as well as the downward review of excessive taxation. But the state government, Odusote said, did not do anything to stop the action.

He also disclosed that the meeting between the government and medical guild last Wednesday ended in a stalemate, as he alleged that government had been reneging on its promises and shifting time for the implementation of the agreement.

“It is unfortunate that our government is speaking from both sides of the mouth.  While one of them will say we have agreed to pay, another will be telling us that they are not ready to pay.  Afterwards, the latter will deny that he or she ever said that.   How then will you believe such people?

“At the meeting last week, after one year, the state government was busy justifying the reasons why they have not fully implemented the agreement we entered into last year” he said.

Odusote, appealed to the people of the state to prevail on the government to fulfill its promise in order to prevent another crisis in the health sector.

However, the Commissioner for Special duties claimed the government has implemented the CONMESS agreement reached with the doctors.

He noted that “between 2008 and now, the salary of Lagos doctors has doubled.” “A house officer in LUTH gets the same amount a house officer gets in the LASUTH or any general hospital in the state”  he said.

He also revealed that a fresh consultant (doctor) at Level 15-Step One in the state, gets N450, 000. Four years ago it was half of that that they get.”

“The issues they (the doctors) are raising are what we can all sit down and talk about. There is nothing going on down now that we should pull down the heaven for.”

The government official appealed to the doctors saying “going on strikes involves a lot things with a number of lives lost and displaced.”

“This strike is illegal, unless if they are saying any little problem we have, they will pull down the heaven” he added.