Paul Obi in Abuja
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on Tuesday in Abuja declared a nationwide warning strike, urging its members across public hospitals in the country to suspend services from 8a.m. today, as a move to press home its demands.
Speaking to journalists on the strike, NARD President, Dr Muhammad Askira, said though there were still some processes still going on, aimed at resolving the impasse between government and the doctors, declaring a warning strike has become imminent given government sloppiness in addressing critical issues confronting members of the association.
He explained that all public hospitals were to be shut down for five working days, commencing today, while the doctors will resume duty on May 16, 2016.
Accordingly, both out-patients and in-patients in government hospitals across the nation will have to rely on consultants, high ranking medical doctors who are often fewer in number than the resident doctors for medical attention.
Askira at the briefing in Abuja said government had failed to meet demands of medical practitioners, even after recent assurances from President Muhammadu Buhari, when they met with leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), assuring the doctors of government readiness to heed to their demands.
Askira explained that after critical analysis of issues affecting NARD at an “extra-ordinary National Executive Council, (NEC), meeting, the NEC observed that there were some processes still on-going in resolving the impasse between government and the doctors, and that the efforts so far made by government had not yet met the doctors’ demands.”
NARD president stated that there were still some issues yet to be attended to by government, adding that, they include “resident doctors who work in states of the country that were yet to be paid their salaries; skipping and all accrued arrears for doctors yet to be implemented in most hospitals in the country; unpaid December salaries of doctors in some federal hospitals, and, house officers’ entry steps have not been effected.
“After exhaustive deliberations, the NEC made the following resolution: that the proposed indefinite strike action due to commence on May 9, 2016, has been shelved. That a five-day nationwide warning strike will be embarked upon commencing from May 11, 2016, by 8a.m. for work to resume May 16, 2016 by 8am prompt. That NARD will review the situation at our Ordinary General Meeting holding from 30 May, 2016.
“This decision is to press home our demands for implementation, in one hand, and also to enable the government enough time to expedite action in areas not adequately addressed.”
He said: “NARD still believes that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will honour all signed agreements as aptly captured during the meeting with the NMA.”
Speaking on recurrent crisis in the nation’s health sector, especially among health professionals, he debunked the claims that doctors were the architect of industrial disharmony in the health sector.
The decision by the resident doctors to embark on the strike came amid assurance by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, that government was doing all it can to avert any form of strike.
The strike is bound to compound healthcare services considering the already weakened health system in the country. Also, patients in public hospitals would have to resort to patronising private hospitals were the cost is exorbitant and mostly out of reach for low income earners.