By Uzoh Ugwueze, Enugu
Resident doctors at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu have commenced contempt proceedings against the embattled medical director of the hospital, Dr. Jojo Onwukwe. This is coming amidst reports that Onwukwe has been suspended from office by the federal government.
The suspension, appears to be the climax of several years of battle between the workers, including the doctors, and the MD.
Orient Weekend gathered that the doctors, who are in jubilant mood over the reported suspension of the MD, said they would send him to jail for withholding their December salary.
The doctors contended that Onwukwe’s alleged action was in total disregard to a subsisting order of the National Industrial Court Enugu. They had dragged the said medical director to court over his step to terminate the residency training programme of some them.
The doctors had, through their lawyer, Ike Maximus Ugwuoke, filed a suit seeking a grant of interlocutory injunction against the medical director over his said steps, which were at variance with their template of employment and conditions of their training.
Recall that when the suit came up for hearing on 28th May 2018, Justice E.I Essien of the National Industrial Court Enugu had ordered the medical director to maintain the status quo after the lawyer to the ministry of health, L. L. B. Iboroma made an undertaking to ensure that nothing happened to the resident doctors pending the determination of the suit.
The order of the court was served on the medical director who complied until December 2018 when he withheld their salary.
The president of the hospital’s Association of Resident Doctors, ARD, Dr. Charles Udeagha, revealed that all efforts the leadership of the Association made to reach the MD and find out why her members did not receive their December salaries were futile. “He told us by proxy that the Court Order would not be honoured and that the court would do nothing.
“The Association had no option than to convey their message to the hospital and the representative of the federal ministry of health by carrying of placards in a peaceful demonstration in the hospital.
“The said MD walked out on the resident doctors when they visited him over their withheld salary on the pretext that he didn’t have the time for the doctors,” he said.
He wondered whom the MD would have time for if he didn’t have the time for his workers. He stated that the action of the MD in withholding the salary of his members during the yuletide in spite of the fact that they worked for it, plunged the doctors and their dependants into untold suffering and financial handicap during the season.
He called on the ministry and the presidency to forestall recurrence of such ugly incident by ensuring that court orders were obeyed and that the rule of law was upheld. Other members of staff of the said hospital also recounted their ordeals under the embattled medical director.
When contacted, Ugwuoke, who confirmed the alleged violation of the court order by the MD, revealed that he filed the main suit in 2017 on the instruction of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigerian (NARD). He said that while the issue was still pending at the court, the MD took steps to terminate the residency training programme of some of the members of the association in the hospital and to stop their salaries, an action that necessitated his filing of the application that gave rise to the interim order made by the court against the said MD.
He further confirmed that the doctors had detailed him to commence a contempt proceeding against the said MD for withholding their December salaries and that pursuant to their instruction, contempt proceeding had been initiated against the MD.
It was gathered that following the suspension of the MD, the former head of the Clinical Services (HCS), Dr. Iteke Obiora, had taken over as the acting MD of the hospital following his appointment into the office on January 10, 2019.