The ongoing industrial action by resident doctors has paralysed activities at the Federal Medical Centre Yenagoa, leaving patients lamenting as other unions threatened to join the strike.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had, on Nov. 15, commenced an indefinite strike to protest non-payment of salary for past two months.
It was also gathered that the hospital also owed its workforce a backlog of 52 per cent short payment arrears for four months.
A NAN correspondent who visited the hospital on Sunday reports that patients were being turned back by nurses and other health professionals in the hospital who were yet to join the strike.
A patient Mr Bozimor Oduku, who said he was abruptly discharged, expressed sadness and frustration over the strike.
He told NAN that he could not afford exorbitant medical bills at any private hospital in Yenagoa.
“This strike is taking place at a time of economic hardship; before coming here for treatment I had visited many private hospitals and I could not pay.
“One of them advised me to come here, and the fees are very affordable, except for the high cost of drugs due to the foreign exchange problems.
“Now that I came here for succour, they have come to ask us to pack and go home, where do I go from here?”
The President, NARD Yenegoa Branch, Dr Okoye Chukwunonso, told NAN that the doctors would not shift grounds until their salaries are paid in full.
He said that the management was yet to initiate talks to resolve the industrial dispute, and if nothing was done, they were ready to stay at home till next year.
The Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association in Bayelsa, Dr Keme Pondei, also said the doctors had no option than to withdraw their services, having exhausted their patience. .
He urged the general public to bear with them as they could not render services on empty stomachs.
A Nurse with the FMC, Mrs Chinyere Okpu, expressed sadness over the non-payment of three months’ salary and short payment for four months for doctors and other medical and non-medical staff of the hospital. .
Okpu said all other staff of the hospital had resolved to join the indefinite strike action embarked upon by doctors of the hospital if the outstanding salaries were not paid by the end of November.
NAN gathered that other unions within the hospital under the auspices of National Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) had threatened to down tools by the end of November if the hospital failed to clear outstanding salaries.
Mr Oginike Lante, Chairman of NUAHP in FMC Yenagoa, told NAN that the salary arrears and outstanding shortfalls affected staff cut across the hospital.
He said that members of his group would go on strike if the situation was not addressed.
When contacted for his reaction, the Chief Medical Director, Dr Dennis Alagoa, told NAN on telephone that he was out of town and could not immediately speak on the development.