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Doctors lament effect of strike on health sector

Major stakeholders in the health sector, on Saturday, decried the worsening health situation in Nigeria due to the ongoing strike by resident doctors under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).

According to them, the strike, which enters the seventh day today, would have been averted if government had been sincere in its handling of past agreements with the striking workers in the health sector.

President, Nigeria medical Association (NMA), Professor Mike Ogrima, who described the strike as a great loss that is not quantifiable since the value of human life is not measurable, said: “It is a regrettable situation for something that is preventable. We allow it to take place because some people had refused to do their jobs. That is the truth.”

Noting that the strike would further make poor Nigeria’s health indexes, he decried brain drain by doctors due to government’s handling of issues that concerned the sector.

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He said: “Our doctors, the younger ones, are leaving the country en masse, they are writing licensing examinations of foreign countries. The foreign countries are waiting for them, because their children are not interested in reading Medicine, so they depend on developing countries to churn out doctors that they are harvesting.

“In Nigeria, we have about 300,000 doctors to take care of our population. Right now, we have one doctor to about 4,000 Nigerians, instead of one doctor to 600 Nigerians. And the situation may get worse.”

President of NARD, Dr John Onyebueze, who said a meeting to consider the renegotiation offer from the government, initially slated for Friday was called off, said: “Our major concern in this strike is the suffering of the Nigerian masses, but unfortunate, the doctors are also suffering at the same time.”

“A situation where consistently since 2016, a doctor has been receiving a fraction of his salary makes it difficult for him to plan; he is emotionally destabilised and will not be in the best form to take care of the patients. The doctor’s health is also jeopardised, if he is not well fed.

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“But, money is not our major focus; our major focus is: let the proper things be done so that doctors will be encouraged to stay back in the country to work.”

On the demands of the striking doctors, Dr Onyebueze stated that although the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was mandated to credit the account of the institutions “only one of our branches have the money remitted into their respective accounts.”

He added: “Most of the demands that have financial implications, government has started to addressing them. Out of the 45 institutions that have salary shortfall, at the moment we have it on good authority that the hospital management of seven institutions have been paid, but only one of our branches had the money remitted into their respective accounts.”

He, however, said members of the association, from their past experience, could not use it as the basis to halt the strike.

“In the past, government would say they had paid, only to find out that it is not true. This had happened severally and that is part of the reasons for lack of confidence in government by our members,” he declared.

He, also declared that “when it comes to salary issues, the teaching hospitals that are worst hit include those in states like Abia, Imo, Osun and Oyo. The teaching hospitals in those states have not received their salaries for upwards of 10 months.”

Concerning the pension of resident doctors discontinued since 2013, he said getting the government officers to give consideration and expediency to the circular to ensure that resident doctors also come under the pension act had been hectic.

“The technocrats take time and decide that this will not be done. The problem of this government is not even the politicians but the people that are supposed to execute the policies of government.

“We are on pensionable and transferable appointments and as such should be captured for their pension fund by appropriate budgeting and the accountant general of the federation remit it to the various institutions.”

President, Association of Resident Doctors, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan chapter, Dr Olusegun Olaopa, also described the strike as unfortunate, given its direct and indirect effects on patients, linking it to government’s insincerity in his agreements.

Dr Olaopa noted: “In UCH, it is only doctors that have not been paid, and it is only doctors that have been getting part salaries for sometime and if we keep working and we do not express our displeasure the way we are doing, the public will think that everything is going on smoothly, that things are fine.”

Meanwhile, resident doctors, medical consultants, nurses and other health workers at the Usmanu Danfodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) are managing to attend to patients in spite of the ongoing strike by doctors.

The UDUTH Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Mr Bello Tijjani-Sada, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday that the hospital had many consultants and other senior medical officials that are attending to patients.

NAN correspondent, who visited the hospital on Saturday, reported that officials of the hospital were rendering their distinctive services to the patients.

Tijjani-Sada said the situation was not bad in the hospital as patients were being treated, noting that only the resident doctors services were withdrawn due to the ongoing strike.

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