AVERTING ANOTHER DOCTORS’ STRIKE

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Medical doctors under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have given the Federal Government a 21-day ultimatum to accede to their demands for better conditions of service or risk a major industrial action in the health sector. The doctors are also unhappy about the poor funding and regulation of the residency programme. Their other grievances include the alleged sack of some of their colleagues and the non-payment of salaries of others for three to eight months in some state-owned hospitals.

The doctors, who were apparently unmoved by a recent memo from the Ministry of Health directing the implementation of the “no-work-no-pay” policy in the sector, argued that the government was not funding the hospitals as it should.

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The president of the association, Dr. Muhammad Adamu Askira, who addressed journalists on the issue, stressed that the doctors want government at all levels to release and implement residency training guidelines with appropriate budgetary backing. He warned that the association will no longer tolerate the undue sacking of resident doctors and called for the reinstatement of those who were unjustly sacked. The doctors also want all levels of government to strictly comply with the Pension Deductions Act 2014 (as amended).

Following the threat by the doctors, President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to them to shelve the planned strike and give the government ample time to address their grievances. The president, who made the appeal at a meeting with the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, solicited the understanding and support of doctors and all Nigerians in view of the fall in national revenue due to the decline in the price of crude oil in international market.

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President Buhari, among other things, promised that his administration will establish 10,000 primary healthcare centres across the country in the next two years, to improve healthcare for about 100 million Nigerians. He also assured the NMA delegation led by its President, Dr. Kayode Obembe, that his administration will soon gazette the National Health Act and appoint a steering committee to oversee its implementation.

Beyond Buhari’s timely intervention, government should demonstrate sufficient political will to address the myriad of problems plaguing the nation’s health sector. Apart from the obsolete medical equipment in most of our hospitals, including the teaching hospitals, the shortage of qualified medical personnel and the remuneration and welfare of doctors and other health workers need to be attended to.

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Strikes by doctors and other health workers have, in the last couple of years, become the norm in our health sector. The overall neglect of this sector has encouraged medical tourism to hospitals in India, Western Europe and America, by Nigerians.

Government should urgently tackle the problems hampering the residency programme. To toy with this vital aspect of medical training is to toy with the future of medical practice in the country and, by extension, the health of Nigerians. Every country that is worth the name takes the training of medical doctors seriously.

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Therefore, Nigeria should not joke with this programme. We join the NARD to call on government at all levels to make appropriate budgetary allocations to the residency programme and properly fund other areas of medicare in the country. This is very important because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Nigeria cannot have good doctors without a well funded residency programme.

Let government address the grievances of NARD members holistically. They deserve to be treated with utmost respect and dignity. Doctors, like other citizens, have their personal responsibilities to meet. Their welfare should be properly taken care of so that they can deliver on their responsibilities.

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The subscription of doctors to the Hippocratic Oath should not be an excuse to deprive them of their entitlements. Their needs should be met to encourage them to put human life beyond all other considerations. All workers, including doctors, should be well paid as hdue. They should not be threatened with the implementation of the “no-work-no-pay” policy by the health authorities.

Government should settle the doctors’ grievances and avert the looming strike. It should also inject more money and other resources into the residency programme. Above all, all levels of government should implement measures that can reduce friction and disharmony among professionals in the health sector. These steps, if adopted, will go a long way in curbing incessant strikes in the country.

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Original story available in The Sun:

Averting another doctors strike

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About Dr. Ken

Medical Doctor, Publisher, Editor, Novelist, Playwright, Visionary Poet, Activist, Blogger
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