The Ogun State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has issued a stern warning about an impending strike due to what they describe as poor working conditions. At a press conference held at Doctors’ House, Lukosi, Abeokuta,

The Chairman of the Association, Dr. Azim Kunle Ashimi, announced that the 21-day ultimatum given to the state government on June 7, 2024, is set to expire next Thursday, June 27, 2024. He stressed that if the government fails to take immediate action to address their concerns, the doctors will have no choice but to embark on an industrial action.

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Dr. Ashimi emphasized that despite ongoing discussions with relevant government officials, the assurances received have been merely verbal, with no formal commitments made. He urged the citizens of Ogun State to pressure the government to take the necessary steps to prevent the looming strike, which could severely disrupt healthcare services across the state.

“The State Executive Council of NMA, Ogun, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the state government on June 7, 2024, which will elapse on June 27, 2024, indicating that industrial harmony may not be guaranteed after this date as the pressure of work on the few doctors holding forth is yielding dire consequences,”

He stated. “Conversations have been ongoing in this respect with relevant government officers, with verbal assurances but no official commitment from the government yet. We use this opportunity to call on well-meaning citizens of Ogun State to impress upon the Ogun State government to do the needful in order to avert any industrial action.”

Highlighting the dire financial strain on hospitals, Dr. Ashimi pointed out that institutions such as Babcock University Teaching Hospital have seen their monthly electricity bills surge from between ₦80-100 million to ₦300 million. He called for concessions to be given to health institutions to prevent these increased costs from being passed onto patients, which would make healthcare inaccessible for many. “Over the last few weeks, we have been inundated with SOS messages from health institutions across the state concerning the enormous increase in operating costs of hospitals occasioned by the recent increase in electricity tariff.

For example, Babcock University Teaching Hospital, a mission tertiary health institution, informed us that their electricity bills jumped from between ₦80-100 million monthly to ₦300 million in the last month. While we appreciate the zeal of the government to develop the energy sector, we appeal strongly that concessions be given to health institutions, as these humongous tariffs will eventually be passed on to our poor patients, thereby driving them further away from access to appropriate healthcare services,” the NMA Chairman said.

Dr. Ashimi also addressed the ongoing cholera sensitization programmes in collaboration with the Ogun State Ministry of Health and various media houses. He emphasized the importance of preventive measures and provided contact numbers released by the Honorable Commissioner of Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, for reporting suspected cholera cases. He assured that these cases would be treated free of charge at designated facilities. “In Ogun State, the Nigerian Medical Association in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders including the Ogun State Ministry of Health and various media houses have been carrying out sensitization programmes whilst also strengthening the health system to cater for cases in the state.

To this end, the Honorable Commissioner of Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, has released phone numbers to NMA Ogun to be disseminated to all our members and healthcare facilities, both public and private, that can be called when any patient presents with symptoms of cholera. Such patients will be transported to and treated free at the facilities designated for the management of cholera cases across the state,” he explained.

Dr. Ashimi also used the platform to discuss the broader public health concerns, urging people to adopt preventive measures to curb the spread of cholera. He advised against open defecation and indiscriminate refuse dumping, encouraged regular hand washing, and emphasized the importance of washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption. He also recommended treating water before drinking, either by boiling or using chemical purifying agents. “We use this opportunity to appeal to our people to imbibe preventive measures for the prevention of the spread of cholera, including avoiding open defecation, avoiding indiscriminate refuse dumping, washing hands regularly, washing fruits and vegetables well before consuming and treating water before consuming it either by boiling or treating with chemical purifying agents.

We also implore schools to monitor food, fruit and snack vendors around the schools to ensure that they practice proper hygiene. As well, schools should reintroduce hand washing stations like was done during the COVID-19 period. By working together, we can prevent cholera from spreading to Ogun State.”

The Chairman warned that unless the government addresses the disparity in salaries between state and federal health institutions, this trend could lead to the collapse of the healthcare system in the state. He also drew attention to the growing issue of gambling addiction, comparing its potential impact to that of drug addiction, and called on the government to investigate and address this issue promptly.

In closing, Dr. Ashimi informed the public about the forthcoming Elective Annual General Meeting, scheduled for August 4 to 9, 2024, and expressed gratitude for the support received over the past two years. He urged the Ogun State government to take immediate action to address the issues raised to avert the potential strike, which could severely disrupt healthcare services across the state.