Socio-economic cost of doctors’ strikes | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Socio-economic cost of doctors’ strikes

Posted: Apr 11, 2015 at 12:16 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Yinka Shokunbi

For the umpteenth time, on March 16 2015, doctors in the employment of Lagos State Government under the aegis of the Medical Guild called an indefinite strike, following the expiration of a 10-day notice to their employer over what was termed: “Unjust treatment’.



In a statement by its chairman and secretary respectively, Drs. Biyi Kufo and Bajide Saheed, the Guild said “the issues in contention include the continued employment of doctors as casual (contract) workers; the non-employment of resident doctors in the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); and the discriminatory application of the state’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy to members of the Medical Guild in the period between April/May 2012 and September 2014”.

Although the action was suspended on Wednesday March 25 so that the doctors can be on duty during the general elections of March 28 and April 11, the state has nonetheless witnessed at least one medical workers’ strike almost every year since 2007.

On each occasion, not only do patients die, losses are incurred on the part of government in terms of investments in the health sector as well as on the part of surviving patients who have had to lose productive hours seeking medical care at either private facilities or travel overseas.

Commenting on the socio-implications of health workers’ strike, former Minister of Health, Prof Eyitayo Lambo, said, “When there are strikes like this, it means patients would not receive adequate medical care or they would have to make extra effort to get the medical care that they need; and that shows two to three more implications. One, it would increase the cost of their getting care,  because such patients would first have to be moved away from where they are initially accessing care which is a public facility,  to a private one and that movement in itself would have an implication of an additional cost from at least two dimensions-transportation cost of moving from a public facility to a private on and the second aspect is the increased or higher cost generally for the private health facility which is usually more expensive than the public health facility.

“On the second tripod is the cost implication in the time lag in getting a patient transferred from one place to another; that is from the public to the private facility. That time lag can lead to either of two things- one is that the condition of the patient may become more serious and that may lead to death or it may become more serious, the patient may not die, but there could be complications which could lead to care of the patient.

“There is yet another implication in which it reduces patients’ confidence in the healthcare delivery system as well as it affects the continuity in the administration of care.

Lambo, whose four-year tenure during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration (1999-2007) never witnessed any of such workers’ strike, told our correspondent that “when a patient is being taken to a government hospital for example, he is no longer sure whether he will receive quality health service and care as well as continuous care because of the sudden strikes that come into play,

He lamented the socio-economic implication further saying: “We are told health is wealth and when a person goes for care in sickness and takes permission for certain days because sickness is affecting his productivity; now, the earlier that patient becomes well, the sooner he can resume engagement in productive activity so, strikes tend to prolong the period over which a patient is not able to be productive.”

The former minister also stressed: “Aggregating so many sick patients being affected, would certainly affect overall national income and ultimately, the economy of the nation”.

Asked how the situation can be stemmed, Lambo said “there are two dimensions: on the side of the workers and then, the employers which is government.

“From the workers point, I think medical staff should be very aware of the oath they took when they qualified and they should also be aware of the implications of the strike and so there is need to ensure that strike is what is engaged in as a last resort and indeed He urged the need for sober reflections on the part of medical workers that strikes are not in conformity with their oaths.”

“On the part of government, all tiers of government would need to seat together and solve this problem once and for all, because strikes have always caught across all tiers of government. Government need to jaw-jaw with all workers to reach an agreement and then, fulfill every promise entered into taking into consideration what its present and future finances are before making promises because promises are meant to be honour,” said Lambo.