The Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA) chapter, has embarked on a three-day warning strike.
The doctors, on Tuesday, accused the management of the hospital of deliberately refusing to pay their arrears, even when they claim it has gotten the funds from the federal government.
They said they had to embark on the strike, as all efforts to get the management of the hospital, led by the Chief Medical Director, Uche Ogah, to pay their arrears, were not successful.
Speaking to our reporter in Abakaliki, the president of the association of the hospital, Osuagwu Philip, said other tertiary institutions in the Southeast have paid their doctors the arrears, which was released last year, but the management of AE-FUTHA have refused to pay them.
He said, “The current strike we embarked on is because of the money that we are being owed, which is (the) arrears of what we call salary shortfalls. It was supposed to be paid to us last December. N50 million was released for this payment and we have tried to negotiate with the management to pay this money, they refused.
“We are not alone in this. The other Southeast hospitals, like UNTH, FMC Owerri, FMC Umuahia, National Orthopedic Hospital and other hospitals in Nigeria received money, the same money and they all paid. It has been a challenge for us. The same thing happened in 2018 when N100 million was also paid to our hospital for this purpose.
“However, even after the management agreed that they will pay this money following a change of regime, they immediately said they won’t pay and eventually they did not pay. So, that is the situation we find ourselves again in December 2019 when this N50 million was paid.
“This strike was supposed to happen last two weeks. However, the board Chairman, through the former Chief Medical Director(CMD) came and asked us to allow them to intervene for two weeks. That is why we gave two weeks, which expired on 20th January 2020”.
Mr Philip said 21 days after the warning strike, the hospital would embark on an indefinite strike if the arrears are not paid.
“We met with the CMD on January 20, to see if he can see reasons why he should pay this money. He refused. That is why the congress took a decision to go on this strike and the resolution is that if after this three-day warning strike, (if) the management does not pay, 21-days from now, we will be going on an indefinite strike.
“This has been communicated to the leadership of our national body. We have also communicated to southeast caucus leaders and we will also communicate to the necessary authorities, the security outfits, about this strike and then wait.
“So, this strike is total and we are not offering any service. The only people that will be working in this hospital are the consultants. It involves everybody under the association of Resident Doctors that are in AE-FETHA.
“We appeal to the masses to understand the challenges we face. Our welfare has been neglected for too long and we tried to show this understanding even under these stressful conditions. We all know how endemic Lassa fever is, in the hospital. But, despite all that we put in to ensure that this hospital keeps working, our efforts are not recognised.”
It was gathered that the strike has paralysed activities at the hospital as only the consultants are on duty.
Attempts to speak to the CMD was not successful at the time of filing this report as he did not pick the calls made to his mobile number.
An aide who did not want to be named, as he is not authorised to speak on the issue, said the CMD was in a management meeting over the issue.
He expressed hope that the issue would be resolved very soon.