The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) is not one of the federal government-owned health institutions or hospitals that have shut down following the nationwide strike embarked upon by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
This is because the authorities of the UPTH have kicked in their contingency plan usually laid for strike actions. As a result, patients are still in the wards, laboratories and other facilities are still open, according to the chairman of the Medical Advisory Council (CMAC) of the teaching hospital, a professor, Datonye Alasia.
In an interview with health correspondents, Alasia said that every strike or disruption of services in any hospital has negative impacts but that the contingency mechanism kicked in by the management has so far steadied situation of things.
Nigeria has over 40,000 doctors but only 15,000 are in NARD (strike) in a country already overstretched by exodus of doctors abroad.
NARD demanded for 200 percent salary increase and increase in other allowances before the strike would be called off. The government said they would positively respond but warned of ‘no work, no pay’.
Doctors like university lecturers in Nigeria have a history of strike as the only relationship with the government.
The UPTH authorities however said they got the notice of strike informally especially from the media.
Alasia said: “We received notice of strike unofficially from the media, etc. Disruption of services from associations not new here. We have a contingency plan for such situations, a response plan. It is in various stages depending on which union is involved. Those plans are in place.
“It certainly will impact as long as they are workers. Clinics are running; radiology, labs, etc. We review the situation as things go on. This is early phase, so response plan is in early stage too.”
He also noted that the strike was not from local issues and that the clinics were open and no patient has been asked to vacate the teaching hospital.
On what would happen if the strike starts biting harder, the CMAC said those were things imbedded in contingency plan.
On advice to patients, he said: “Well, we always do not wish this situation but if it comes, it should be short.”
He urged the citizens to put some pressure and give advice so it wont be doctors that would be pushing the matter. “Citizens can put a word so the situation can be short. If citizens talk, it removes pressure from the medical workers. As for work, only resident doctors are not there. Others are. Wards are open, but response plan will be as things happen. We do our best to offer best services. There are protocols we implement in handling this.”
NARD is lobbying the entire medical family to join the strike, saying NARD cannot go it alone. States are also being urged to join the strike.