The industrial strike actions embarked on by resident doctors in Nigeria has dealt a huge blow to the medical system with the government moving to engage temporal staff.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has directed chief medical directors and medical directors of federal hospitals to immediately engage the services of locum doctors to augment the services of consultants, National Youth Service Corps doctors and medical doctors on internship pending the resolution of the ongoing strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors.
The order was contained in a circular with Ref. No. C. 3132/Vol. V/116, addressed to all CMDs/MDs of federal tertiary health institutions across the country.
Adewole said the move became imperative in order to reduce the increased workload of consultants, NYSC doctors and house officers, thereby preventing reduction in quality of service delivery to patients.
The minister had earlier approved the use of armed forces, police and the Federal Road Safety Corps in health facilities to ensure the continuous delivery of health care services across the country.
He said, “Consultants are to work overtime as we continue negotiations with the National Association of Resident Doctors today. No one should die because our colleagues are on strike.”
Meanwhile, doctors in the employ of the Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja, have refused to join the strike.
One of Punch correspondents learnt that activities at all hospitals under the management of the FCDA, such as the Gwarinpa General Hospital, Wuse District Hospital, Maitama District Hospital, Asokoro District Hospital, Kuje General Hospital, Kubwa, Karu General Hospital, Rubochy General Hospital, Bwari General Hospital and Abaji General Hospital went on smoothly.
However, the three medical facilities owned by the Federal Government in Abuja – Federal Medical Centre, Jabi; National Hospital and Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital – were affected by the industrial action.
It was learnt that NARD was planning to sanction all state chapters that refused to join the strike.
Speaking with one of our correspondent on the telephone, the Secretary-General, NARD, FCT Chapter, Dr. Roland Aigbovo, said the FCT doctors refused to join the strike because they were already having talks with the FCDA.
Aigbovo said the strike could be considered as an act of bad faith, adding that the chapter was ready to face any punishment that might come from its parent body.
He said, “We refused to join because there are some issues we are trying to address locally and we have written a letter of appeal to our national body informing them that we want to be exempted from the strike. We feel that going on strike would undermine the understanding we have with our management towards addressing the issue.
“We are willing to deal with the consequences of not joining the strike. Going on strike now would mean that we are not committed to the negotiations with our management.”
Resident doctors, the first line of medical professionals who attend to patients in teaching and some general hospitals, downed tools nationwide to protest salary shortfalls and cuts.
Consultants were the only doctors on duty at the Federal Medical Centre, Bida, Niger State, as NARD members at the tertiary hospital joined the nationwide strike.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Niger State chapter, Dr. Mustapha Yahaya, disclosed that negotiations were ongoing between the Federal Government and NARD executives , adding that an agreement was likely to be reached this week.
He said, “The strike was called by NARD, an affiliate of NMA . We have consultants and doctors that are working for the state government; they are not on strike.
“Their issues are being addressed by the Federal Government. If you go round the Minna General Hospital and the IBB Specialist Hospital, you will see that doctors are on ground doing their jobs.”
Doctors in Anambra on Tuesday refused to join the nationwide strike.
At the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Awka, doctors were seen at their duty posts attending to patients.
When a correspondent visited the hospital, patients were seen receiving medical attention.
Speaking with one of Punch correspondents, a nurse attached to Consulting Room 1, who simply identified herself as Kasie, said the resident doctors were on duty.
She said, “There is no strike in this hospital. As you can see, the doctors are in their consultation rooms attending to patients.”
The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Basil Nwankwo, told one of our correspondent that Anambra State had its peculiar circumstance.
“That is the reason why we are not joining the strike,” Nwonkwo stated. However, at the General Hospital in Onitsha, resident doctors were not on duty.
Though patients were seen at the OPD department, there were no doctors on duty to attend to them.
Mrs. Omasi, who spoke with a correspondent at about 3pm, said she had been waiting with her sick mother at the hospital since 10 am only to be told that doctors were on strike.
She said she could not afford the high cost of private hospitals in the area.
“I’m a petty trader; I cannot afford to take my diabetic mother to any of the private hospitals around here,” she stated.