Resident doctors across Nigeria on Thursday commenced industrial action, following the instruction of their national body, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), in defiance of the agreement signed in a memorandum of action (MoA) with the Federal Government.
The association said the agreement was not new, as it was earlier signed in 2017, though no attempt had been made by the government to work with it.
It, therefore, accused the government of not being sincere in its dealing with the union. The association had signed the agreement with the Federal Government to shelve the planned strike at midnight on Wednesday, after a marathon meeting between the government team, led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige and the leadership of NARD.
Resident doctors insisted that the strike will continue until the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union decides otherwise. Speaking through its president, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the association stated that the strike will continue despite the agreement signed by the two parties, adding that the NEC of the union will meet to consider the agreement reached with the government.
The meeting between the Federal Government and NARD leadership lasted for over seven hours, with issues raised by the aggrieved doctors in their Notice of Trade Dispute, which include non-payment of salaries of some house officers, non-recruitment of house officers, abolishment of the bench fees for doctors undergoing training in other hospitals, non-payment of National Minimum Wage and hazard allowances, discussed in full.
Speaking on the outcome of the Wednesday meeting, Ngige assured that all the things written and agreed upon in the agreement will be implemented, adding that, “12 hours is a lot of time. Everybody will be working. Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) will be working. And hopefully by tomorrow, you will experience the payment as agreed here for the second category of doctors (an overflow of the MDCN quota).
“We hope it must happen tomorrow and continue. So, by the time the chairman of the CMDs comes up with his final list and harmonise it with MDCN, we won’t have issue anymore over this payment or whether some doctors have not been paid.
“And with this MoA, we hope you get to your members to let them understand better that government has moved proactively to address most of the issues ahead of your coming,” he said. The doctors on Thursday, instead, commenced the strike with activities at hospitals nationwide crippled, forcing people with patients in government hospitals to evacuate them to private facilities.
In Ibadan, several doctors and medical officers at the University College Hospital (UCH) were not at their duty posts.
Dr Temitope Hussain, NARD president at UCH, maintained that the association had embarked on a total and indefinite strike to press home its demands.
In Ekiti, only few consultants were on ground to attend to the high number of patients at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH). NARD president in EKSUTH, Dr Olaniyi Olaoye, said the strike became necessary in order to compel government to address the challenges facing quality health care delivery in the country.
The South-West caucus leader of NARD, Dr Taofeek Sani, told Nigerian Tribune that his members complied with the national strike at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti (FETHI). This was the same situation in Sokoto and Bauchi states as the NARD chairman in Bauchi, Dr Mohammed Nur Algazali, said accusing the government of insincerity. The situation was the same in Kogi, Edo, Kano, Kebbi, Anambra, Ebonyi and Osun states, as there was total strike, with family members of patients being compelled to move their patients to private facilities.
A senior resident doctor at the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital (OAUTHC), Dr Simeon Kusoro, said the compliance of the hospital to the strike directive is 100 per cent. In Abuja, there was also total compliance to the order, with the president of NARD, FCT chapter, Nnamdi Nd’ezuma, said the association’s demands are basic and not extraordinary. In Ilorin and Lagos states, resident doctors are, however, divided over the strike.
In Ilorin teaching hospital, some doctors said they had resolved not to embark on strike after a meeting with management of the teaching hospital on Wednesday, but the chairman of NARD in the hospital, Dr Badmus Habeeb, confirmed that the strike had taken effect. The strike recorded partial success in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH). Activities appeared grounded in LASUTH, with surgical procedures put on hold and only emergencies attended to as the doctors at the state-owned institution joined their colleagues at federal level to promote comradeship.
At LUTH, there was jubilation that the hospital was kept open despite the strike. Speaking on behalf of the management, Pius Oko, the spokesperson for the hospital, said compliance to the industrial action was at zero level. “There are no signs of boycott of duties by the resident doctors. The clinics are functioning and our accident and emergency section too is functioning. Our patients are being attended to at the wards. I can tell you that up till now LUTH is functioning optimally,” Oko said.