The raging doctors’ strike - Flatimes

Friday, 19 August 2016

The raging doctors’ strike

Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper

The failure of government to fulfill the agreements it reached with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has, once again, plunged the nation’s healthcare delivery system into avoidable turmoil. This is sad indeed.

The doctors, who, barely a month ago, precisely on June 24, 2016, suspended a nationwide strike, are now on another indefinite industrial action not too long after the earlier one was suspended following the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and other prominent Nigerians.

Coming just as Nigeria is facing an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, government should urgently address the doctors’ grievances and put a stop to the incessant strikes that take their toll on human lives.

The doctors embarked on the industrial action to press home their demand for the implementation of the agreement earlier reached.
Consequently, they have withdrawn their services from 25 tertiary medical institutions across the country.

That, expectedly, has paralysed medical services in the hospitals. A host of patients, including those in critical condition, have been abandoned to their fate. This is totally unacceptable in any decent and civilised society.

The President of NARD, Dr. Muhammed Adamu Askira, the other day, in Kano, disclosed that the decision to embark on another round of industrial action was reached at the end of the association’s national executive council meeting in Keffi, Nasarawa State.

He said that many agreements reached with the government on the demands of NARD were yet to be implemented by the management of the hospitals. He alleged that resident doctors were being unduly victimised and sacked, particularly, at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), among others. Doctors who were sacked were yet to be reinstated contrary to resolutions reached with the government.

Askira expressed regret that despite the commitment of the Federal Government to ensuring the commencement of the full payment of their outstanding arrears, which accrued since 2014 by end of July 2016, the doctors in the affected hospitals were yet to receive such entitlements.

It is heart-rending that medical workers in Nigeria’s health-care delivery system have been pushed to this desperate situation without consideration for lives.

The nation’s medical care system is in a shambles. When doctors are not on strike, it is nurses or other categories of health workers. On each occasion, it is the unfortunate patients who suffer.

The issues agitating the resident doctors are long outstanding and except something is done urgently, the latest industrial action could lead to unnecessary loss of innocent lives.

Not until the Federal Government and indeed the various state governments begin to honour agreements reached with labour unions without waiting for a showdown would Nigeria have industrial peace and harmony.

Before now, there is the issue of appropriate salary regime for doctors. The NARD was complaining about the failure of government to implement the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) from January 1, 2010 as promised. Their demands should be addressed forthwith.

Doctors threatened a number of strikes last year and actually embarked on some that paralysed hospitals. But those actions, apparently, didn’t achieve their desired results.

Ordinarily, doctors shouldn’t be pushed to going on strike because of the nature of their job, which involves human lives. And in actual fact, what the doctors are demanding is improved health facilities of which salary is only a part.

Nigerian doctors are renowned for their excellence abroad simply because the facilities are there and the remunerations are commensurate.

That the agreement government freely reached with the doctors is not kept shows not only a lack of integrity on the part of that government but also its disdain for lives.

It is unfortunate that government has taken actions that would seem to erode whatever is left of the country’s dilapidated healthcare system, which is already among the worst in the world.

The infrastructure is poor. Basic facilities needed in the hospitals are lacking. Worst still, the ratio of patients to available doctors is quite high, over and above the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. Thousands of Nigerian doctors have been pushed abroad as a result of the abject condition of the healthcare delivery system.

Having agreed by collective bargaining to pay a certain salary to the doctors, government should honour its own side of the agreement. On this lies the solution to the recurrent strikes by different labour unions, including doctors.’

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