Nigerian doctors on Monday embarked on a nationwide strike action in protest of poor working conditions ranging from lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to governments’ unwillingness to pay their salaries and bonuses among other demands.
The National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) had last week issued a one week warning to the state and federal governments. A letter signed by the president of the Association, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba said the doctors would have no choice than to embark on strike if the governments fail to meet their demands in the seven days window.
Dr. Sokomba acknowledged that the decision is “painful” given the time, but has to be taken for the interest of NARD members who have to face the harsh realities of the situation.
“Consequent upon the 14 days ultimatum duly served the Federal Government for indefinite strike action, in accordance with the resolution of the Ordinary General Meeting of the Association on the 29th of May 2020, we hereby notify you that all resident doctors, medical officers below the rank of Principal Medical Officer (PMO) and House Officers across all the Federal and State hospitals in Nigeria, shall be embarking on a total and indefinite strike action effective 12:01 am Monday, 15th June 2020.
“It is important that you make alternative arrangements for the care of the patients as the strike shall be total and indefinite. No service of any kind, be it emergency, care at COVID-19 isolation and treatment centers shall be exempted. We sympathize with the patients and Nigerian populace.
“For purpose of clarity, the demands on which the ultimatum was predicated include the following: provision of grossly inadequate appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for all health workers, immediate reversal of the illegal disengagement of all 26 resident doctors in Jos University Teaching Hospital, and the payment of all salaries owed them, in keeping with provisions of the Medical Residency Training Act.
“Provision of funding for Medical Residency Training in the 2021 Appropriation bill. Payment of all arrears owed our members in federal and tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the National minimum wage.
“Stoppage and immediate refund of all illegal, unjust and callous cut in salaries of our members by Kaduna State and other state governments.”
It is based on these demands that the doctors embark on strike action today, though those working in the frontline of COVID-19 crisis were exempt.
The situation has been described as “unfortunate” by Nigerians as it is happening at a time when the country needs the health workers most. Resident doctors make up over 80% of doctors in teaching hospitals, which means that the development will paralyze medical activities in federal and state hospitals.
The NARD has been calling on the federal and state governments to address these situations, but the governments’ insouciant attitude has forced the Association to do the only thing that could instigate the governments to action.
Last month, the Kaduna State Government had forced health workers in the state to take pay cuts; their refusal has resulted in the State’s decision to disengage most of them even as the number of coronavirus cases is rising in the State.
The Nigerian health sector has been in loggerheads with the governments over the welfare of personnel and hospitals. The lack of PPE in the face of the fight against coronavirus has been described as “shameful government’s failure.” The number of medical workers who have contracted coronavirus has been on the rise and many have died eventually. It is believed that the situation would have been different if there is provision of enough PPE.
The federal government has been borrowing upon donations from local and international donors, amounting to millions of dollars for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that it lives up to the financial responsibility of the health crisis.
NARD warned that if the demands of the doctors are not met by the federal government in two weeks, the exempted COVID-19 frontline workers will join the strike.