One of the easiest ways employers can gag their employees and stop them from complaining about unfavourable working conditions is by threatening them with a sack. This is commonly seen in the private sector but it has found its way into public sectors as well. The case of the dismissal of resident doctors in Ondo State can attest to that.
SaharaReporters reported in their paper of June 24, 2020, that striking resident doctors attached to Ondo State University of Medical Science Teaching Hospital have been sacked. These doctors were reported to have protested sometime in May for the non-payment of their salaries and allowances for the past six months. Unfortunately for these doctors, their protest was received with negative reactions.
In an internal memo dated 24th June, 2020, and titled, “Notice of Suspension of the Residency Program”, Adeeyo Babatunde, the Director of Administration, representing the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, notified all Resident Doctors that they should seek for their residency training elsewhere. The memo specified that residency training in the hospital will be suspended as from August 1, 2020. These doctors were, hence, advised to seek for the continuation of their programmes in other institutions that still offer such training.
This memo may not have been connected to the protests made by the Resident Doctors if it wasn’t specified in it. Yes, a sentence in that memo states, “This decision is to allow the Hospital focus on service delivery in order to combat COVID-19 outbreak without distraction of agitation from the Resident Doctors.” Another sentence exposed that they intend to take drastic measures for next resident doctors. This one states, “This will also allow time for proper implementation of the program when the program recommences.” Now, you can ask what they plan to implement and how they plan to do that.
It is actually not something new for people to lose their jobs. It is also not new that when people agitate against their employers for providing bad working conditions they will be asked to leave the organisation. But those practices are hardly seen these days. And worst of it all, this one under discussion happened in a government owned organisation.
If we decide to analyse the implication of the suspension of residency programme in University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital, Ondo, we will acknowledge that the decision of the management of that hospital is inhumane and irrational. This decision will affect Resident Doctors, Consultants, patients and the hospital as a whole.
- The Effect on Resident Doctors
The memo gave the Resident Doctors two options. The first one is that they should find another institution that offers residency training and enrol there. The second option is that they should come back and re-enrol when the hospital starts the program again. No matter the option any of these doctors opt for, they stand to lose all the years they have spent in residency. I actually don’t know how residency training takes place but I know that Resident Doctors are placed under consultants in their desired areas of specialty to train them. Now that these doctors are asked to leave, what happens to their years of training? Another question is this, “Have they been paid the money owed to them?”
- The Effect on the Consultants
Many consultants visit the tertiary hospitals they are attached to only once or twice in a week. The first day will be to meet patients booked under them and the next day will be to do ward rounds with their trainees, that is, if there are special cases they need to see. If there is a need for surgery or any other special case that is referred to them, they will be booked and notified long before that day. They don’t see patients who do not first pass through the Resident Doctors. In fact, they only read a summary composed by their residents to be sure of their accuracy. Consultants in teaching hospitals are like professors in classrooms – you don’t push them around and you don’t overburden them. Now imagine that you go to the University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital and are told that only one doctor is around and that he only wants to meet two persons, meanwhile you people are like 100 waiting to be attended to. One thing I can bet you here is that these consultants will not be bothered about the number of people waiting for them because they only choose who to see. So technically, consultants may not really be affected by the absence of their trainees.
- Effects on the Patients
Patients will feel this impact the most. Patients, whose cases were handled by consultants, are followed up by the residents attached to those consultants. Consultants are only called if there are complications. I feel sorry for these patients because they will feel abandoned. Apart from that, this development will henceforth make it more difficult to consult with specialists in this hospital because the Resident Doctors that make it easier for people to see consultants will be unavailable. Let’s remember that most people that go to tertiary hospitals do so because they want to consult with these specialists. In the absence of these Residents Doctors, people will spend hours in this hospital and go home empty-handed.
- The Effect on the Hospital
The management of this hospital said it wants to focus on battling COVID-19 without the distraction of agitators. Well, it might want to know that the measure it took to stop this distraction is going to create more distractions. There is possibility of other health workers complaining about their heavy workloads. They should expect complaints from patients. In fact, they should expect more agitations from all corners.
There is still time for this hospital to revert its decision to suspend the residency programme. I haven’t heard of a tertiary hospital that doesn’t engage in residency training. The hospital should dialogue with the Resident Doctors and sort out their grievances. The measure taken to handle the issue will only encourage more agitations from different quarters. Apart from that, it is wrong that people should be sacked for demanding their accumulated salaries.