Resident Doctors Begin Strike, Exempt Colleagues Treating COVID-19 Patients

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•Gbajabiamila appeals for reconsideration of action

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Doctors yesterday commenced a nationwide indefinite strike to press home their demands for better welfare.
The doctors, under the auspices of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), said the strike, which took effect in the early morning hours of yesterday, would exempt members attending to COVID-19 patients for two weeks.

Such frontline workers are, however, expected to join the strike after two weeks, if the dispute has not been resolved.
However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has expressed surprise over the nationwide strike and appealed to the doctors to reconsider their action.

NARD President, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, at a press conference in Abuja, listed their demands to include the immediate implementation of the revised hazard allowance and payment of the COVID-19 inducement allowance as agreed by the government and healthcare workers three months ago and payment of minimum arrears to members.

He said: “NEC resolved to proceed on an indefinite nationwide strike from today, 15th of June 2020 by 12:01a.m, with the exemption of our members attending to COVID-19 patients at designated COVID-19 treatment and isolation centres for two weeks, after which if things remain the same, they shall also be co-opted to join the strike.

“This exemption is in recognition of the intervention of the Honourable Speaker, House of Representatives, the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Dr. Tanko Sununu, and other stakeholders as well as a demonstration of our goodwill to Nigerians.”

In a communiqué jointly signed by Sokomba; NARD Secretary General, Dr. Bilqis Muhammad, and Publicity/Social Secretary, Dr. Egbogu Stanley, the association listed other demands to include “universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all federal and state hospitals and ensuring pay parity among doctors of equal cadre, provision of funding for Medical Residency Training in the 2021 Appropriation Bill, payment of all arrears owed our members in federal and states tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage.”

In addition, the doctors are demanding “stoppage and immediate refund of all illegal, unjust and callous cut in salaries of our members by Kaduna State and other state governments.”
The doctors had met to review the 14-day ultimatum issued to the federal government, which elapsed two days ago.
The meeting was attended by over 500 doctors past presidents, caucus leaders, committee chairmen and observers.

At the NEC meeting, the doctors noted the sorry state of the healthcare delivery system characterised by the perpetual unavailability of personnel protective equipment for healthcare workers in the hospitals with the attendant increase in infection rates, the unnecessary suffering of patients and their relatives, the financial hardship, the obsolete equipment, and machines and technology.

Gbajabiamila Urges Doctors to Reconsider Strike

Gbajabiamila has appealed to the striking doctors to reconsider their action.
Gbajabiamila, at a meeting last Tuesday with the leadership of the resident doctors and the executive arm, led by the two ministers manning the Federal Ministry of Health, had urged the doctors to extend the strike ultimatum to allow the government more time to meet their demands.

But the speaker, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, said he could not believe that despite the steps taken by the National Assembly to intervene in the matter, the resident doctors could still embark on the strike.
He appealed to them again to call off the strike, while all the resolutions reached at last week’s meeting are implemented.
He also called on them to consider the plight of average Nigerians as they consider shifting their position.