The encounter between members of the Nigeria Medical Association, Imo State chapter, and the state government over the concession of health institutions in the state on Thursday turned bloody following the shooting of a renowned physician, Dr. Bede Azudialor, by the police.
Bede, an employee of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, was allegedly shot in the head by a yet-to-be identified police officer during a protest in Owerri by the NMA against the policies of the government.
It was gathered that the victim was first rushed to the emergency unit of the FMC, from where he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and later taken to an undisclosed hospital.
The state Chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Doctors, Dr Darlington Akukwu, thereafter announced a three-day warning strike by doctors in the state in protest against the alleged police brutality of their colleague.
He called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to compel the Commissioner of Police in the state, Taiwo Lakanu, to produce the culprit who perpetrated the act, just as he pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari for a thorough investigation into the matter.
Akukwu warned that failure to produce the trigger-happy police officer would provoke an indefinite strike by the NMA in Imo State.
Meanwhile, the association has kicked against the appointment of a non-medical person as a Commissioner for Health in the state by Governor Rochas Okorocha, arguing that the action was a clear indication that the government lacked a clear sense of direction on health matters.
“This unacceptable action is comparable to putting a square peg in a round hole which is a harbinger of total collapse of health care delivery in Imo State,” the NMA said.
In a statement jointly signed by the Chairman, Dr. Emele Hyacinth, and Secretary, Dr. Duruewuru Kyrian, the NMA lamented that despite repeated warnings, the state government “stubbornly” went ahead to concession virtually all state public health institutions from primary to tertiary.
He warned that concessioning public health institutions in the state would not only make health care services unaffordable, unavailable and inaccessible, but also make the state to lose the assistance of donor agencies and partners such as WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, among others.
He explained that the donors sponsored immunisation and other measures against malaria, tuberculosis, family planning, HIV/AIDS in health institutions in the state.
He pointed out that the state would equally lose from the huge funds available from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency as enshrined in the National Health Act, 2015.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Andrew Enwerem, said the police only used tear gas to disperse the protesting doctors when they became riotous.
“Police did not shoot anybody and nobody who is shot in the head will remain alive. Let them produce a doctor’s report to confirm that it is a real case of shooting somebody in the head. Anybody can pick any bloodstained material from anywhere and claim that he was shot.”