Medical services at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu may not be restored soon, as the striking resident doctors have resolved not to return to work despite efforts by the Dr. Christopher Amah-led management to resolve the industrial dispute.
Activities at the hospital have been paralysed for more than two months.
The Guardian learnt that, despite doctors' absence from duty posts, they have received their salaries but insisted that unless the skipping allowances and other demands made by their union were resolved they would not return to work.
At present, the hospital is unable to admit patients into the wards while doctors are not available at the General Out-Patients Department (GOPD), leaving only the Emergency, Cardiothoracic, Intensive Care, Renal Units, Ante-natal clinic and the Eye Theatre as the only departments rendering services.
Chief Medical Director of UNTH, Dr. Christopher Amah, and other management staff had held talks with the aggrieved medical workers, comprising resident doctors, Medical Officers and House Officers between July 5 when the strike commenced and last Friday, September 11, pleading with them to call off the strike in the interest of the suffering patients.
The CMD had explained to them that "there was no circular from the Federal Ministry of Health authorizing implementation of the skipping allowance", assuring that once the fund was appropriated in the next budget the management would not hesitate to pay the allowances.
It was gathered that while some leaders of the medical workers union had agreed to suspend the strike, having investigated and realised that there was no fund actually released to the hospital for the payment, some officials of the union led by leaders of the Association of Resident Doctors have vowed to continue with the strike.
The Union leaders, who met last Friday, according to one of the members, took a decision not to resume work demanding that the management should release funds from its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to pay the skipping allowances.
The management was said to have explained to the aggrieved medical workers that the IGR was not meant to be used in settling workers' entitlements, adding that with the recent directive on the operation of Treasury Single Account by the Federal Government, such expenditure could not be authorised by the hospital.
"It is becoming very clear to us that some of our colleagues in the medical sector have other motives beyond the implementation of the skipping allowances, which was our main reason for embarking on the strike since July. They want to play politics with the strike which many of us have said is no longer necessary because our colleagues in other teaching hospitals have already called off the strike."
He disclosed that many of the striking doctors who are sympathetic to the plight of the patients, had during the union's meeting last Friday expressed desire to return to work, more so when they had been paid for the period they did not work, but this was turned down by some union leaders "who are bent on causing unnecessary trouble in the hospital."
Following the directive by the Federal Ministry of Health to the Teaching Hospitals nationwide that implementation of skipping be suspended since there was no fund appropriated for it in this year's budget, medial workers at other Federal Teaching Hospitals in Calabar, Ibadan, Lagos, Nnewi and the National Orthopeadic Hospital, Enugu have since called of their strike. However, they were said to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with their management agreeing to implement the skipping allowances as soon as funds were available for it.
Efforts to speak with the Chairman of the Association of Resident Doctors, UNTH Chapter, Dr Alloy Ifedinso Ugwoke, on the matter on Sunday were unsuccessful as his phone was not reachable.
The Guardian could not also reach Dr. Amah, the chief medical director, as his telephone line continued to ring out on Sunday.