The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on yet another strike on Monday, August 2, 2021.
The decision of Resident Doctors to go on industrial action is not unconnected to unpaid salaries, benefits to families of members that lost their lives to COVID-19 pandemic and hazard allowances, improved conditions, and failure to domesticate Medical Residency Training (MRT) Act 2017 in states, among others.
It will be recalled that less than four months ago, between April 1 and 10, the doctors were on strike over same issues. However, the strike was called off following a memorandum of understanding signed by the Federal Government and the leadership of NARD.
During this period, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had threatened striking doctors that the Federal Government may stop paying their salaries if they do not resume work while speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
Ngige had pointed out that the Federal Government is empowered by Labour law to stop paying salaries of the striking workers. He further mentioned that the Federal Government has an option of employing local doctors.
Speaking with Information Nigeria, a resident doctor criticized the no-work-no pay statement made by Ngige during his interview.
“Salaries of house officers are being delayed for months. The hazard allowance is still a paltry N5,000 yet we are wrong for demanding commensurate compensation? It’s outrageous that the Minister of Labour and Employment thinks his ‘No work, No pay’ threat can stop the strike. We are resident doctors, not gods. We also have blood running through our veins and we can’t continue working on failed government policies and terms,” he said.
The President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, also touched on the meagre hazard allowance as he spoke to NAN in Abuja on the first day of the strike, Monday, August 2, 2021.
“The federal government may come out to insist on no-work-no-pay. They may try to threaten us with this directive from tomorrow; they can do that but they should remember that anyone that has not done his work first should also be punished,” he said.
“The relevant government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that are yet to carry out their duties in ensuring that these issues are addressed should be held accountable, because this strike will not happen if they did their jobs,” he continued.
“Some members of the association are being paid N5,000 as hazard allowance when individuals in the upper and lower chambers of the national assembly are receiving between N1.2 million to N3 million or more for hardship allowance. We need to get our priorities right. We lost 19 resident doctors to COVID-19 and as it stands, their families are yet to receive any death benefits,” he added.
“Healthcare is not a priority to our leaders,” began Mrs Francis, a patient who could not be attended to at the General Hospital, Isolo as a result of the strike in tertiary facilities.
“It’s so unfortunate that it’s at this period that resident doctors are going on another strike. I don’t know what is taking the government so long to meet their demands. Are they not aware that it’s the citizens who will suffer more? Going to a private hospital will cost me money that I don’t even have. Heath should be our priority but it’s the other way around in this country,” she said.
“It’s the strike of resident doctors that has made many people run down to Isolo here for treatment. As a result, majority of patients will not be attended to. If I proceed to a private hospital for urgent attention, I will be billed a fortune,” she added.
Moreso, the intervention meeting by the House of Representatives on the dispute between the federal government and the National Association of Resident Doctors saw a futile end on Tuesday, August 10.
The house committee on healthcare services represented by the Chairman, Tanko Sununu, said the stakeholders including the federal ministries of health; finance, budget and national planning; labour, employment and productivity; and the office of the head of civil service of the federation, had agreed to address some of the issues.
However, the national executives of the NARD after the meeting declared that it was not satisfied with the resolutions and could not call off the strike.
Mr Idowu Timehin believes that the strike is a clarion call for improvement.
He said, “Do you know that LASUTH doesn’t have Resident Doctors Quarters? These guys come from their homes and sometimes sleep for days in consulting rooms and side wards, just to be able to satisfy patients’ needs. As big as LASUTH is, what is wrong with creating a residents doctors lodge? Yet it’s a teaching hospital of repute. Perhaps this strike is a clarion call for improvement.”
For Agbom Friday, the unpaid salaries of Resident Doctors make them unable to deliver optimum healthcare services which sadly leads to loss of lives.
He said, “Ministry of Health and regulatory bodies in charge should screen and monitor these doctors on a regular basis. Some of them are not academically and practically qualified. This unwholesome practice and negligence always put the lives of patients in danger. My friend lost his wife in the hands of these doctors at Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. After surgery, the doctor forgot that he failed to stitch the wound which caused internal bleeding to the woman. That was how the woman gave up the ghost. To pay them their demand is good but always put them in a routine check.”
Azeez Toheeb blames the unmet demands of NARD on the brain drain witnessed in recent years. He said, “I’ve not been following the recent development. But is it not the same doctors that were on the frontline against COVID-19 without adequate benefit package who risked their lives that are being met with such disdain. Later we wonder why 50% of them have chosen to practise their profession elsewhere. Raise the health budgetary allocation to the recommended and revamp the whole healthcare sector. The incompetence and irregularities in this administration is just so perplexing. The head doesn’t know what the tail does, the tail doesn’t keep to what the head passes, and the nonchalance. So embarrassing and depressing.”