Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

The ongoing strike by Nigerian doctors under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has disrupted activities across public tertiary hospitals in Nigeria.

It was observed that health activities were skeletal on the second day of the strike in some hospitals in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, and Lagos State.

The doctors embarked on an indefinite industrial action in the early hours of Wednesday following what they described as the failure of the Nigerian government to meet their demands.

This came after the expiration of a two-week ultimatum earlier issued to the government.

The association said the two-week ultimatum, which ended on 19 July, was to give the government adequate time to begin implementation of the resolutions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) previously agreed on.

The doctors, among other issues, are demanding the immediate payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), tangible steps on the “upward review” of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and payment of all salary arrears owed its members, since 2015.

The doctors also want immediate massive recruitment of clinical staff in the hospitals and abolishment of the bureaucratic limitations to the immediate replacement of doctors and nurses who leave the system.

They also want the immediate review of hazard allowance by all the state governments as well as private tertiary health institutions where any form of residency training is done.

The resident doctors comprise the bulk of medical personnel in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals; hence health activities are mostly crippled when they are on strike.

Some of the hospitals visited in Abuja on Thursday were offering skeletal services to patients after several hours of delay.

At the time PREMIUM TIMES visited the Asokoro district hospital, many patients were waiting to be attended to. Medical consultants, nurses and other healthcare workers were attending to some patients at the eye clinic department.

However, a family leaving the hospital at the time of the visit said the management directed them to vacate the premises because there are no doctors to attend to them.

“My son has been on admission since last week but they suddenly asked us to leave the hospital because doctors are on strike,” the mother identified as Mrs Joseph said.

At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, it was observed that only a few patients were at the General Outpatient Department (GOPD). A patient, Aisha Sani, said she and others have been waiting for long hours to be attended to.

Ms Sani said some people have been forced to go back home because they could not wait any longer.

A nurse on duty said the hospital was offering skeletal services, describing the workload as overwhelming “but all hands are on deck to ensure patients on ground are responded to.”

At the Wuse District Hospital, patients were stranded. One of the them, identified as simply as Benjamin, said he got to the hospital at 8 a.m. but that as of 12:30 p.m., he was yet to be attended to.

At the surgical outpatient department of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), PREMIUM TIMES observed that patients were being attended to but ongoing strike may have slowed the services.

A patient’s relative, identified simply as Mrs Aliu, said her son had been on admission at the facility before the strike.

Another patient’s relative at the LASUTH Medical emergency department, Susan Abraham, said they took her 18-year-old son to the hospital on Thursday morning as a result of a swollen leg but could only be attended to later in the afternoon.

Another woman who refused to mention her name said her daughter was admitted on Tuesday due to a sickle cell crisis and that she has been attended to by different doctors.

The president of ARD at LASUTH, Salmon Abeeb, confirmed that the branch had complied with the directive of the national body, adding that only the consultants and medical officers were working.

He disclosed that the leadership of NARD were as of the time engaged at a meeting with the representatives of the government in Abuja.

“We pray that it yields favourable results and I hope that the government does the needful,” he said.

“As regards Lagos State, we are yet to get any response from the government, despite the fact that the strike has commenced and we believe they are on it.

“By the end of this week, if we don’t receive any favourable response, it means the strike will continue.”

Mr Abeeb noted that if the Lagos State Government pays the medical residency training fund for 2023, “we can call ourselves together and deliberate on our position.”

“We want them to grant the most pressing of our demands,” he said.

A consultant family physician and resident doctor in LASUTH, Oluwajimi Sodipo, decried “the lackadaisical attitude of government” to issues that concern doctors’ welfare.

“We must realise that no health practitioner wants to go on strike, but unfortunately the government doesn’t react until people go on strike,” he said.

He said NARD had raised a number of issues over the past few months and there have been several meetings with the government “but nothing happens until a strike is declared.”

“The notification for strike action should be the trigger action for the government to prevent the industrial action.”

Shortly after the strike commenced on Wednesday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, said the federal government was working towards ending the doctors strike.

Mr Abbas, who spoke after a meeting between the principal officers of the lower chamber and President Bola Tinubu, said there are plans to meet some of the demands of the doctors.

“It is a work in progress. I am sure with some of the issues that they have raised, if we can be able to meet some of their expectations; of which we are already working on that,” he said.

“We have already set up an ad-hoc committee chaired by the majority leader of the House to look at the issues they raised. I am sure one or two interventions in their areas of concern will prevail on them to come back to the negotiation table.”

Mr Abbas said Mr Tinubu asked the doctors to exercise patience because he had not been fully briefed on their demands.

“He said he is just coming on board and we should ask them to please give him more time as he is completely unaware of most of the things that they mentioned and he is yet to be briefed about the issues,” Mr Abass said

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