By Jennifer Okoro
Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FUTHA), Ebonyi State, have embarked on a three-day warning strike today.
The doctors accused the hospital management of deliberately refusing to pay their salary arrears despite getting money from the Federal government.
They said the strike became unavoidable as efforts to get the management, led by the Chief Medical Director, Uche Ogah, to pay their arrears, were unsuccessful.
President of the Association Dr. Osuagwu Philip said other tertiary institutions in the Southeast have paid the arrears after money was released last year, but the management of AE-FUTHA has refused to pay them.
He said: “The strike is to protest our unpaid arrears which should have been paid last December. Fifty million was released for this, and we have tried to negotiate with the management but it refused.
“Other Southeast hospitals like UNTH, FMC Owerri, FMC Umuahia, National Orthopaedic hospital and other hospitals in Nigeria got money and paid their doctors. It has been a challenge to us and the same thing happened in 2018 when N100 million was paid to our hospital for this purpose.
“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. That was the situation we found ourselves again in December, 2019 when this N50 million was paid.
“This strike was supposed to happen two weeks ago but the Board Chairman, through the former Chief Medical Director (CMD), begged to intervene so we gave two weeks which expired on January 20.”
Philip said after the warning strike, the doctors will embark on indefinite strike after 21 days 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 but 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 the management does not pay, we will be going on indefinite strike 21 days from now.
“This has been communicated to our national body and the Southeast caucus leaders. We will and we will also communicate necessary authorities and security outfits and wait.
“This strike is full as we are not offering any service. The only people who will be working are the consultants. It involves everybody under the association of Resident Doctors here.
“We appeal to the masses to understand the challenges we face. Our welfare has been neglected for two long and we have tried to show understanding by working, even under stressful conditions. We all know how endemic Lassa fever is in the hospital, but despite all we put in to ensure the hospital works, our efforts are not recognised.”
It was gathered that the strike has crippled activities at the hospital.
Efforts to speak to the CMD were unsuccessful as at last night.