For the umpteenth time, resident doctors, under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, issued a 21- day ultimatum to the Federal Government to address issues bordering on the state of the health sector in the country, as well as doctors’ welfare, or face a total indefinite withdrawal of their services.
While addressing journalists in Enugu, President, NARD, Dr. John Onyebueze, said that, as
from January 2 next year, doctors in all public health institutions across the country would start wearing black ward coats or clinical gowns to “mourn the death of the country’s health sector,” if the government failed to meet an earlier agreement it reached with
He explained that the health of Nigerian citizens was not receiving the attention it deserved as evidenced by the worsening health indices and dilapidated infrastructure in health institutions across the country.
He blamed the state of hospitals in the country on maladministration and inadequate planning of the Federal Ministry of Health. Part of the demands of NARD, according to
Onyebueze, include urgent measures to stem the rot in the health sector and ensure access to quality healthcare for all Nigerians, adequate budgetary provisions and planning for both manpower and infrastructure development in subsequent budgets.
We consider the Federal Government’s disposition and treatment of the issues at stake
as unfortunate, considering the fact that healthcare delivery is critical to the well-being of any society, and given the high death toll that would result from the impending strike
Onyebueze said the doctors were also demanding that the Federal Government should take steps to ensure proper placement of their members with its requisite funding and the
immediate payment of withheld salaries of NARD members.
He added that the organisation would no longer tolerate deprivation of its members, following the “no work, no pay,” order of the government.
He alleged that the Federal Ministry of Health was undermining staff welfare in tertiary
health institutions through improper placement of its doctors on entry, as well as non-adjustment of grade levels and steps of other doctors, according to selected steps in
These complaints are, however, not new. The Federal Government-doctors industrial dispute dates back to several years with dire consequences and costs on human lives, which could only be appreciated when data on lives lost to such strikes are computed.
Only in July, NARD had ordered its members to withdraw their services from 25 tertiary
medical facilities across the country. At the time, according to the doctors, the decision
became inevitable because of a breach in the agreement reached with government, following the suspension of an earlier strike.
“Based on intervention and our genuine act of patriotism, we accepted to suspend the indefinite strike for negotiation to resume. Based on our negotiations, we agreed that our members would not be victimised and those unduly sacked would be reinstated. We
also agreed that payment of the arrears of our remuneration would commence latest end of July. As we speak, 25 out of about 54 branches are yet to start.
Our members have not been reinstated,” the NARD president recalled. After waiting endlessly for government to honour the agreement it had with them, the doctors have yet
again issued an ultimatum to down tools. We consider the Federal Government’s disposition and treatment of the issues at stake as unfortunate, considering the fact that healthcare delivery is critical to the well-being of any society, and given the high death toll that would result from the impending strike action. Without doubt, strikes by healthcare workers are slowly and irredeemably destroying Nigeria’s public healthcare system.
About two weeks ago, in an expose done by The Point, medics across a number of Federal
Medical Centres and tertiary institutions across the country, had also spoken of plans to commence industrial actions if the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Health, failed to meet their demands, which had been on the table for long.
The crux of their discontentment bordered on unpaid salaries, with arrears accruing from
between five to 15 months. This should not be the case in a sane environment. Governments at all levels must begin to pay attention to workers in critical sectors and learn to honour mutual agreements. The frequent strikes are partly the result of non-implementation of collective bargain agreements and Memorada of Understanding between the doctors’ union and the government.
Those in charge should stop toying with the health of Nigerians, who are daily dying of preventable diseases, occasioned by the dearth of medical equipment, expertise and supplies.
We must start by ensuring that our tertiary health care system is functional. As a matter
of urgency, government should quickly address the issues raised by NARD leadership. The strike, as a matter of fact, should not be allowed to begin.
At a time when Nigerians are contending with the biting effects of a bad economy, it would not be in the interest of the country for doctors to withdraw services in public health facilities. The effects would certainly be too devastatingon ordinary citizens.
The Federal Government must therefore find a way to come to terms with the doctors and put an end to avoidable strikes.