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Friday, December 8, 2023

Doctors’ strike takes toll on patients

The ongoing indefinite industrial action embarked on by members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors is taking a toll on patients in government-owned healthcare facilities.

Some of the hospitals visited at the Federal Capital Territory showed that only skeletal health services were being rendered to patients to cushion the effects of the strike, amid several hours of delay.

In some of the departments of the hospitals visited patients were not being attended to, as some of them have been discharged to seek healthcare in other hospitals.

NARD declared an indefinite strike on Tuesday night during its ongoing Extraordinary National Executive Council meeting in Lagos, following the failure of the Federal Government to meet its demands.

NARD had on July 5, 2023, issued a two-week ultimatum to the government to meet its demands. The ultimatum expired on July 19, 2023.

Recall that the doctors embarked on a five-day warning strike from May 17 to May 22, 2023.

Empty waiting area at Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja, on Thursday [today]
The doctors are demanding the immediate release of the circular on one-for-one replacement of exited clinical staff in the various hospitals, immediate payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund, the commencement of payment of all salary arrears owed to our members including the 2014, and 2015, and 2016 salary arrears, hazard allowance arrears as well as arrears of the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage.

Other demands are the immediate implementation of full CONMESS, domestication of MRTA/payment of MRTF, and review of the hazard allowance by all state governments, among others.

When our correspondent visited the Federal Medical Centre, Abuja, it was observed that only a few patients were in the General Outpatient Department.

One of the patients, Ms Habib said, “I was here yesterday (Wednesday), and many patients were waiting to be attended to but not all of us were able to see the doctors, they said they are on strike. I was only lucky yesterday before the resident doctors handed over their duties to others available, so they asked me to come back today (Thursday) to complete my tests.

Patients’ waiting area at the Wuse District Hospital, Abuja on Thursday [today]
“Some of the people I know that came here yesterday have gone to private hospitals for treatment and some just went home.”

An official at the hospital who does not want to be mentioned told our correspondent that the hospital is attending to patients but there are fewer available doctors.

At the Wuse District Hospital, patients were stranded while waiting to be attended to. Though only a few patients were seen at the hospital, they said they are hopeful the available doctors will attend to them.

A patient at the Surgical Outpatient Department, who identified herself as simply Hauwa said, “I came for the dressing of my wound after my surgery. But they are not attending to many patients. The doctor here is just trying to help us.”

Some patients were also waiting to be attended to at the eye clinic department of the hospital.

Also, at the Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja, patients lamented that there was no doctor to attend to the patients at the General Outpatient Department.

However, a medical consultant and some house officers were attending to patients who went for eye check-ups at the eye clinic.

Nurses and other healthcare workers were also seen assisting in providing health services.

It was also gathered that some patients were discharged to seek medical services in other hospitals.

Mrs Anita, a patient said, “I’ve been here since but they said doctors are on strike, so I’ll go to a private hospital to seek help.

“If you look around, you will see that many people are not here because there are no enough doctors to attend to patients.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas is set to meet with the striking doctors on Thursday in a bid to intervene regarding their demands.

The Majority Leader of the House, Julius Ihonvbere, announced this during plenary on Wednesday.

A member of the House, Idem Uyime (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), had tried to move a motion for the House to intervene to prevent the strike.

However, former Deputy Speaker of the House Idris Wase (APC, Plateau) raised a point of order that the speaker is already on the matter.

Abbas met with the doctors on Monday and appealed for time. However, despite the appeal, the doctors announced plans to commence an indefinite strike Wednesday.

Ihonvbere said, “I want to inform (the House and the public) that Mr Speaker has since met with Mr President, and significant progress in terms of addressing the needs of the doctors that are now on strike has been made. Second, we have scheduled a meeting for Thursday with all the stakeholders, including members of the NARD. So, discussions are on.

“(Former Chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services) Dr Tanko Sununu is here, and he has been in touch with the NARD President, and they are going to be at this meeting tomorrow along with other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, the Accountant-General of the Federation; Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning; even the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”

Under Former President Muhammadu Buhari, resident doctors embarked on strike for 128 days from 2016 to May 2023, to press home their demands.

Over the years, the failure of the government to meet the demands of doctors and other healthcare workers usually plunges the fragile health sector into a health crisis.

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