Medical services were on Wednesday paralysed in government hospitals across the country as the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors began its five-day warning strike.
Punch correspondents, who monitored the strike in different states on Wednesday, observed that hospitals were offering only skeletal services to cushion the effect of the strike.
This was even as hospital officials say the medical and dental consultants, nurses, and other health workers who are not involved in the strike were overwhelmed.
The hospital officials also said some patients were discharged to seek health care in private health facilities.
It was reported that members of NARD, which has about 12,000 members, had on Monday threatened to proceed on a five-day warning strike from May 17 to May 18 to press for salary increase, among others.
The resident doctors are demanding an immediate increment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure to the tune of 200 per cent of the current gross salaries of doctors.
They also want immediate massive recruitment of clinical staff in the hospitals, and immediate withdrawal of the bill seeking to compel medical and dental graduates to render five-year compulsory services in Nigeria before being granted full licences to practise.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said it was working towards resolving the demands of the doctors.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, while speaking on Channels Television on Wednesday, has faulted the strike by NARD, saying talks were ongoing between the ministry and the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission towards NARD’s demands.
Ngige said it was “incongruous for students doctors to embark on strike when consultants training them were already negotiating with the Federal Government.”
“The resident doctors are part of NMA. They are young doctors in training. So, if NMA is negotiating on their behalf as the parent body, what these young people (resident doctors) are doing is disrespecting the NMA.
“They are crying wolf when there is none,” Ngige said.
The strike took a toll on medical services across the country.
In Lagos, the President of the Association of Resident Doctors, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr Kemi Abiloye, said, “Today, we made sure none of our doctors went to work, the government knows our agitation and as soon as they are able to call us to the negotiation table and begin to solve our demands, we can then agree with them.”
Similarly, the Chairman of the Association of Resident Doctors, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Dr Uzairu Abdullahi, told said that members of the association joined the strike.
Resident doctors in the Benue State University Teaching Hospital and Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, also joined their colleagues nationwide on the strike.
President of ARD, BSUTH, Makurdi, Dr Moses Agwa, lamented doctors’ poor pay.
He said, “Imagine a doctor, with all the health hazards that we face, COVID-19 came in, we have the Lassa fever that our members die of, we are exposed to the worst hazards ever, and at the end, you are paid N5,000 for all cadre, while it has been reviewed to 600 per cent at the federal level.
“Doctors are going outside the country, and in the face of poor remuneration, the load of work has doubled for doctors.”
The National President of NARD, Dr Emeka Orji, said the Federal Government had not invited the association for negotiations regarding its demands.
Orji said, “The government knows how to invite us for negotiations because what they are looking at is that the Minister of Labour said he has called the Nigerian Medical Association to invite us, and he also said he has called the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, to invite us to a meeting, but they have not invited us.”
Also reacting to the no-work, no-pay policy, Dr Orji said, “It is most unfortunate the way they are looking at us, we are doctors, and we are looking at germane issues. Instead of addressing the issues, they are drifting and talking about punitive measures, that is not good for Nigeria and it is not good for the health sector, and it is not going to resolve the issues we have raised.”
Meanwhile, speaking during a briefing to commemorate this year’s World Hypertension Day, the Minister of Health, who was represented by the Director of Public Health at the Ministry, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, said, “With respect to the doctors’ strike, I believe that at this time, the leadership of the ministry will, as usual, be engaging with the Ministry of Labour, relevant stakeholders, and the resident doctors to resolve what the issues are. We hope that these issues will be resolved quickly.
“The situation with the doctors’ strike is of concern to the government, and the negotiations have been ongoing.”