Doctors embark on indefinite strike in Ebonyi

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Doctors working in Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA) on Thursday embarked on strike action following an assault on some of them a relative of a dead patient.

Under the aegis of Association of Resident Doctors, they said, in a statement, the strike will continue until certain conditions that will ensure the safety of members were put in place by management

Branch President, Chidubem Osuagwu, regretted that they are being forced to withdraw their services during the period the country is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Osuagwu: ‘The assailant had gone further to threaten to burn down the hospital and stab to death any doctor he finds around the hospital”.

He said the incident is the third time doctors have been assaulted by patients relative in two months.

“Within this same period, there are four recorded cases of near assaults on doctors diligently carrying out their duties”, he said.

The President said the association had within this period adopted diplomatic approaches including reaching out to the Management of AEFUTHA, the police and other law enforcement agencies to see what can be done to stop this ugly trend but noted that this approach as at has not yielded the desired result.

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“We as doctors working in AEFUTHA face a very serious challenge in caring for Ebonyians and other patients from outside the state. Most of the time, the patients present very late to us when little or nothing can be done to save them.

“This is usually after they have spent several days in TBA homes, traditional medicine homes or even in their places of worship and are now at the point of death. Most of them come to the hospital with no money and often times the doctors task themselves to contribute money to procure drugs to make sure these patients receive the appropriate treatment.

“Doctors in AEFUTHA are often called out in dare emergencies to donate blood to save the life of patients who were brought to hospital in shock from either vaginal bleeding or road traffic accident who require surgery and urgent blood transfusion to stay alive.

“Most of the relatives of these patients refuse to donate blood to save them claiming either that they are not the patient’s husband or relative or that they will die if they donate blood.

“The hospital management has also been very sympathetic to the plight of Ebonyians and has gone out of her way to approve the treatment of patients even when they present without money to ensure that lives are saved at all costs.

“With all these in mind, it becomes very worrisome why these same people who have received this level of care and compassion both from the doctors, other hospital staff and the hospital Management will turn around and payback with assault on doctors and other health workers”, the statement said.

The Doctors expressed sadness at the ugly development adding that they no longer consider it safe to continue working in the face of glaring threats to their lives.

“Our lives are very important to our families who spent so much to bring us to where we are today and so even if the patients we lay down our lives to save do not want us to live and do not value us, it will be stupidity on our path to remain calm and allow them to achieve their evil plans”.

They, however, noted that they have been in meetings with the Management of AEFUTHA with the aim of providing a lasting solution to this problem

Dr Osuagwu, who revealed that the assailant was arrested and will be charged to court to serve as a deterrent to others, however, said more measures need to be put in place to safeguard the Doctors.

“Other things to be done to improve security for doctors and other health workers in AEFUTHA have been outlined and Management has shown willingness and sincerity of purpose in getting these things done.

“As soon as these things are done and we consider it safe to return to work, we will gladly do so”.

“It is very unfortunate and sad that at this time when Coronavirus has become a global challenge and health workers are doing their best to ensure the protection of the lives of citizens, we are forced to withdraw our services because our own lives are threatened by the very ones we lay down our lives for”

‘The public should know that doctors are trained to save lives and as human, we can only do our best in caring for our patients. We are not God and so when a patient is brought in a moribund state and we do our best to save the patient and it fails, the relative should not think that the way to show their love for the one they lost is to attach the doctors and health workers that cared.

“We understand that many people who appreciate the efforts of doctors and other health care providers in Ebonyi state and beyond me be affected by this action. We, however, appeal to them to understand the situation we found ourselves in and give us the necessary support to overcome this challenge”.