Resident Doctors’ Strike….; By Safiya I. Dantiye

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HERE we go again, must have been the reaction of many people when they learnt of the strike action embarked upon by resident doctors on Monday, August 2.

And this is at a time when Nigeria is in the third wave of Covid-19. Not that people are as afraid as they used to be when the first case of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) was confirmed in February last year.

Dr Okhuaihesuyi

Those that are sceptical believe this third wave to be just cold because of the rainy season.

In addition many states have recorded cholera outbreak such as Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Benue and the FCT.

In any case, the resident doctors have been going on strike citing the inability of government to meet their demands.

The President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, who spoke to the press two days before the commencement of the strike, blamed the government for failing to implement an agreement signed with the union a few months ago. He also added that the overall working conditions for doctors had deteriorated due to lack of funding in the health sector.

According to the doctors, their salaries were not paid regularly despite them taking up the issue with the government on many previous occasions. They also demanded a revision in their hazard allowance which has not changed since 1991.

NARD claimed that only one out of 19 families of doctors who died during Covid-19 work got compensation from the government so far. NARD said that even Covid-19 cases were not exempted from the strike and doctors also would not participate in the vaccination programme.

It is the lot of government to enter into negotiations with unions and agree to their demands, but it hardly meets up. In some cases it just agreed so as to end the strike and buy time, but after sometime the unions go on strike again. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would easily come to mind in this saga of strike and government’s promises.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In many places, even within cities; some chemists have become ‘hospitals’ where patients line up and some are even put on drips. The people welcome these chemists as going to general hospitals are tedious due to long queues and they cannot afford private hospitals.

However it is the ordinary people that the unions say they embark on strike for their interest that in most cases suffer the most.

There are many reports in hospitals where patients on admission left because of the strike. Some that could afford to go to private hospitals would go and those that couldn’t have to simply go home and resort to herbalists and other means or die.

Patients and their relatives in such dilemma beg the government to look into the grievances of the doctors.

The strike doesn’t directly affect the authorities, many of whom go abroad for routine medical check-up.

People take doctors’ strike as an anomaly because it has to do with health, or if you like, matter of life and death. They feel that since doctors are supposed to save lives, no matter what, they should not go on strike. Rather, they should find another means of ‘forcing’ government to listen to their demands.

But it is apparent the government only ‘understands the language’ of strike to get its attention.

As it is, the healthcare system is overwhelmed! The general hospitals are a riot. One woman told me that she went to a general hospital near Abuja. She said her number was 104, so she decided to go to the chemist and get drugs instead.

“I couldn’t wait that long; after all, what I got was just malaria,” she said.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In many places, even within cities; some chemists have become ‘hospitals’ where patients line up and some are even put on drips. The people welcome these chemists as going to general hospitals are tedious due to long queues and they cannot afford private hospitals.

In case of emergency, you may go to many hospitals without getting a bed as happened to one of my relatives who is late now.

Even though the National Assembly is weighing in, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, is trying to resolve the issue with the doctors, it is only a matter of time before the next strike if their demands are not met and the ordinary people are left to suffer.

Therefore in this critical sector of life and death, the government must do all it can to end this strike soon and put mechanisms to prevent future ones.

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