Lagos State Government Monday fired 788 medical doctors following their refusal to suspend their 13-day-old industrial action.
The government simultaneously employed 373 fresh ones "for immediate deployment in the public hospitals while recruitment continues".
The Head of Service (HoS) of Lagos State, Mr. Adesegun Ogunlewe, said in a press statement that the dismissed doctors were axed by the "Lagos State University Teaching Hospital Board and the State's Health Service Commission (HSC) following an illegal strike embarked upon by the doctors since April 16, 2012".
He also said the two bodies attributed the sack to the refusal of the doctors to answer to queries issued to them to explain why they were absent from work without leave and without the due observance of the rules and regulations guiding strikes and industrial actions in the state's public service.
According to Ogunlewe, 316 of the doctors were working with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital while the remaining 472 were from other hospitals in the state.
Explaining the acts leading to the sack of the doctors, the HoS said: "Resulting from the contemptible act of the Medical Doctors LASUTH Board and HSC, the two bodies that appointed them in line with subsisting statutes, served those who were 'Absent without Leave' (AWOL) with queries", adding that while a handful of them responded, a majority of the doctors shunned the query.
He maintained that the strike came as a rude shock to the state government "since the leadership of the medical guild still met during the week preceding the illegal strike with top government officials in charge of health and establishment sectors".
On what made the strike illegal, the statement said, among other things, that the doctors only gave the state government 24 hours notice "as against the time-tested and statute-bound processes and procedures for declaration of industrial disputes".
THISDAY also gathered from the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji, that the doctors' decision to stay away from work, despite government efforts to revamp the state's health sector, was regrettable.
He alleged that "the strike was politically motivated", adding that it was curious that "the doctors could abandon their jobs at such a critical moment like this, when the state government is investing heavily in the sector".
Raji insisted that the need to replace the doctors was aimed at saving the state's health sector from total paralysis.
The state government also alleged that the doctors consume 60 per cent of its total annual recurrent expenditure, disclosing further that an average house officers earns as much as N173,927.33 monthly, while a consultant takes home as much as N801, 985.09, excluding the teaching allowances.
Raji rejected the doctors' claim that the government had been adamant on its demands, explaining further that the government expends nothing less than N20 million on the training of each of its 339 resident doctors at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).
Raji, who further said only Lagos State competes with the Federal Government on the payment of its doctors, added: "We match the Federal Government naira-for-naira. We don't short change our doctors."
In the recent medical/officers' salary regime published by the state government, doctors on level 12, step two, earn 207, 629.75; level 12, step three officers 213,784.00; level 12 step 4 N219,938.30 while level 12, step 15 officers earn N226,092.42.
In the same vein, doctors on level 15, step six earn 408,387.50; medical officers on level 15 step seven, earn N420,375.50, while those on level 15 step eight earn N432,363.50.
On the other hand, senior medical doctors at the consultant cadre of level 17 step 4 earn 703,390.50; level 17 step five officers earn 723,109.25; level 17 step six officers earn N742, 828.33, level 17, step seven officers earn N762,547.25, level 17, step eight doctors earn N782,266.17 while level 17 step nine officers earn N801, 985.09.
The doctors had, on April 24, embarked on an indefinite strike following the expiration of their initial three-day warning strike between April 11 and 13. Key on their demands' list is that the state government should effect a 100 per cent implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
In September 2010, the doctors had also embarked on a three-month strike to press home its demand for payment of 100 per cent CONMESS.
However, after three months of fruitless negotiations, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola approved 75 per cent salary increase, prompting the doctors to suspend the strike.
The ongoing action is aimed at compelling the state government to implement the entire CONMESS.
Meanwhile, the state Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Edamisan Temiye, after an emergency congress, said the association described the government's action as draconian, undemocratic and most uncalled for.
"If they do this to the doctors and they survive, they will do it to the other workers in the health team. They have turned everybody to their slaves because they think they are so big now that people should become their slaves."
He explained that last week, at its 52nd Annual General Conference and Delegates' Meeting, the decision-making body of the NMA had reviewed what was happening in Lagos State and were very disturbed and arrived at the decision to set up an elders' committee to meet with the state government.