Last week, within the space of five days three senior medical doctors at Alimosho General Hospital (ALGH), Igando, in Lagos, died under what some of their colleagues described as demeaning circumstances.
The three medical practitioners, identified simply as Messers Otukoya, Aluko and Shuaib, were principal medical officers at the Lagos State-owned health facility.
The development, which has thrown their colleagues under the umbrella of the Lagos State chapter of the Medical Guild and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) into mourning, has been blamed on the negative impacts of the exodus of Nigerian healthcare workers abroad.
The Medical Guild in a statement issued over the development said the circumstances leading to the demise of the doctors “might have been related to chronic illnesses believed to be aggravated by stress.”
Association issues ultimatum
In its reaction to the development, the Medical Guild declared a three-day mourning period across the Lagos State Health System in a statement Monday signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Sa’eid Ahmad, and Moruf Awodun, respectively.
The association also issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to convene a “meaningful engagement” with the Medical Guild on all welfare matters affecting doctors in Lagos State, decrying the impact of brain drain in the health sector.
The group also noted in the statement that the general welfare and well-being of doctors and other health workers in the state has for long been a subject of “relentless discussions”.
“The devastating phenomenon of brain drain, and its attendant work overload for the doctors remaining onshore, and the negative consequences of severe manpower shortage has been repeatedly emphasised,” the statement reads in parts.
“The Medical Guild, only 10 days ago forwarded a concise but wide-covering Position Paper to Mr Governor, centred on the need to Declare a State of Emergency in the Health sector and activate immediate palliative, medium and long-term welfare incentives for the doctors and health workers in the state.”
Association orders skeletal services
Meanwhile, as part of its resolutions on the development, the association directed its members to embark on a three-day mourning period, even as it instructed the colleagues of the late doctors at Alimosho General Hospital (ALGH) where they had practised till their death to embark on skeletal services.
The association said, “All elective procedures are to be rescheduled within this period.”
“Only emergencies are expected to be attended to. This is in deference to the deep psychological state surviving colleagues in that centre must be going through, and as a mark of respect for these fallen heroes,” it noted.
Some patients who were unaware of the development and visited the hospital were asked to return home.
Meanwhile, when PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Lagos State Ministry of Health for comment, its spokesman, Tunbosun Ogunbanwo, said the government has since been on the matter.
Doctors to meet with government
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday, the Chairman of the Medical Guild, Mr Ahmad, confirmed that the state government had acknowledged the 48-hour ultimatum issued by the body to address the poor welfare situation of healthcare workers in the state.
“There is no strike. We have only given an ultimatum for the commencement of meaningful engagement, and we have received an official invitation to meet with the government this week,” Mr Ahmad said.
“It is that meeting that will determine our next action as we have our congress coming up this Saturday.”
Brain Drain in Nigeria
Nigeria’s health sector is currently grappling with a severe shortage of skilled personnel, resulting from the mass departure of healthcare professionals.
A 2022 UK immigration report showed that 13,609 Nigerian healthcare workers (including doctors) were granted working visas in the past year, making the country second only to the 42,966 from India.
As of October 2022, the Nigeria Medical Association disclosed that only 24,000 licensed medical doctors were available in the country, lamenting that only one doctor is available to treat 30,000 patients in some southern states, while in the North, it is one doctor to 45,000 patients.
Recently, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, a medical doctor identified as Michael Umoh died under a circumstance that was blamed on stress by his colleagues.
There have been consistent reports of adverse effects of brain drain across the Nigeria health sector.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu recently announced some palliatives within the health sector, including subsidised deliveries, which have placed a heavier burden on the workers.
Mr Sanwo-olu explained that the government’s plan is to ameliorate the sufferings of pregnant women in the state by offering free antenatal and delivery services as a means to cushion the impact of the fuel subsidy removal.