Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condemns the response of the Lagos State government to the on-going strike action embarked upon by doctors in the state employment. The doctors, under the aegis of Medical Guild, are protesting against the deplorable condition of health care in Lagos State, the non-payment of the CONTISS salary scale and poor working conditions.

These demands are legitimate and justified. We therefore call on the Lagos state government to immediately meet all the demands in order to save hapless Nigerians and patients who require medical service.

Instead of finding solution to the demands of the striking doctors so they can return to work, the state government has been promoting division within their ranks. Various public statements and comments made by the Lagos State Commissioner of health Jide Idris since the strike action began on January 5, 2009 are not only vexatious but also hypocritical.

At the behest of the state government some medical practitioners organized as the Association of Private and General Medical Practitioners have come out to condemn the strike and promised the government to fill the void created by the striking doctors at the public hospitals. This association is a group of private hospital proprietors who expectedly do not want the implementation of an improved pay package and working conditions in the public hospitals knowing that doctors in their employment, who are usually poorly paid, would demand the same from them. Thus, they are ready to ignobly break the strike.

The government has argued that the strike is illegal, whereas the striking doctors had given the state government 21-day notice of strike as required by law since December 15, 2008 without any positive response from the government.

However, the priority of a responsible government should not just be to prove the legality or otherwise of the strike action but whether the demands of the striking doctors are genuine or not. While the Commissioner for health says the strike has no basis because the government has been addressing some of the issues raised, the reality of health care delivery proves otherwise.

Across the country, lives are being lost daily due to poor infrastructure and inadequate basic amenities in hospitals and clinics. Most times the causes of deaths are treatable ailments. In many hospitals, electricity supply is so inadequate that operations are done in poorly lit theatres. Equally wards are so inadequate that female and male patients are often times admitted in the same ward. This hapless situation has continued to endanger the lives of doctors and other medical practitioners as aggrieved Nigerians have sometimes unloaded their frustration on them. Meanwhile, the Nigerian ruling elite including President Musa Yar’ Adua and many state governors laden with stolen loot have always guaranteed health care for themselves and their families by travelling to the best hospitals in Europe, America and Asia to treat minor ailments.

The condition of health care in Lagos State is so poor despite frequent Government propaganda. Like the education sector, the Lagos State government has been selling the lie that health care is free in Lagos state, meanwhile patients who approach the state hospitals are made to pay for almost everything in other to get treated. Yet, the state government is not doing anything to improve facilities in the hospitals. While there are not more than 800 doctors in Lagos State government employment, over 18 million Lagosians depend on them for treatment. This has resulted in a situation where doctors in Lagos state employment work more than 30 hours yet their pay is not commensurate to this amount of labour expended.

Only an immediate solution including adequate funding, upgrading of facilities and provision of basic amenities in the hospitals, payment of living wages to all categories of medical practitioners including doctors and employment of more doctors can save the health sector thus saving the lives of Nigerians who die daily.

But being that the Nigerian ruling elite’s main purpose in governance is to loot the treasury, there is no hope that the needed solution of the health care crisis can be done without the medical workers (doctors, nurses, houses officers etc) and the masses taking the road of mass action. While the price of oil on the world market was a high as $147 per barrel, nothing was done in improving the conditions of health care. Now that the price oil has fallen as a result of the global economic recession, valuable services like health care will come under further attacks with adverse consequences for the masses. Given this scenario, the current strike action of the doctors under the aegis of Medical Guild is therefore commendable.

We therefore call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) to give support to the striking doctors. Efforts should be made not just to achieve the payment of the CONTISS salary scale but the struggle must be built further until adequate funding and improved facilities are provided for the heath sector.

However, the only way to guarantee an improved health system is for the enthronement of a genuine democratic government representing the interest of the workers and poor masses which will be prepared to jettison neo-liberal policies of privatization and commercialization for a policy of public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and funding of health, education, infrastructure etc. This therefore raises the need for a political voice for the working people to aid their struggle. We again raise our age long demand for the NLC, TUC and LASCO to build the Labour Party as a mass workers’ political party with a socialist programme to dislodge the ruling capitalist elite from power.

Segun Sango
General Secretary