SOCIALIST Labour has thrown its weight behind striking Nigerian medical doctors under the aegis of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) just as it called on the federal government to adequately fund the country’s healthcare system.

Comrade Olamosu, National Secretary, Socialist Labour

In a statement on Tuesday, National Secretary of Socialist Labour, Comrade Biodun Olamosu,  expressed profound solidarity with the striking doctors while also calling “on other workers in health sector, the Joint Health Staff Unions (JOHESU), the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, to provide active solidarity with the doctors strike and fight the issue of inadequate funding of health care system together on a common front.”

Socialist Labour also condemns governments at all levels for allowing public officials to receive medical treatment outside the country while allowing provision of health care system in the country to deteriorate.

Read the full statement below:

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SOCIALIST LABOUR EXPRESSES SOLIDARITY WITH STRIKING MEDICAL DOCTORS

Medical doctors organised under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike on Thursday April 1, 2021. The strike is long overdue after notices and warning strikes organised before now without the governments (at all levels) responding to the doctors grievances.

Among the grievances of the striking doctors are demands for better working conditions and environment, up-to-date medical facilities and infrastructures to work with, increment in salaries in line with the minimum wage, prompt career progression, payment of outstanding salaries of some house officers, abolishment of bench fees for doctors, undergoing training in other hospitals, upward review of hazard allowance put at N5,000 occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and generally inadequate funding for healthcare.

President Muhammadu Buhari promised on coming to power that “the government’s hard earned cash would not be spent on treating officials overseas especially when Nigeria had the expertise”. Altogether, before the current visit, he spent 170 days (6 months) abroad for his own health care while leaving ordinary people in a collapsed health system. He does not care to address condition that compelled medical doctors to embark on an indefinite strike. Two days before the declaration of strike by doctors on April 1, the president jetted out again for another round of health care.

This is despite the huge amounts spent on the Aso Rock Villa Health Centre.  The budget for this year is nearly N700 million naira.  In 2016 one per cent of the total health budget for the Federation was spent on the Presidential Health Centre.

Nigerians in London have demonstrated against President Buhari’s visit to London and demanded that he returns to Nigeria to solve the many health issues at home.

The successive governments have only been paying lip service to providing better healthcare.  The recommended budgetary allocation to health care, as agreed by Africa Union members in 2001 in Abuja is 15 percent.  The Federal Government’s allocation of around N550 billion or less than 4 percent of the total budget is far short of this figure.  This is also a fraction of the average for sub-Saharan Africa according to the World Bank database.  As a result, ordinary Nigerians suffer worse health outcomes than other Africans.  More than 2,000 Nigerians a week die from each of the common diseases that can easily be treated like malaria, diarrhoea and tuberculosis (this is the same as the total deaths from Covid-19).

There were nearly 75,000 doctors registered with the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) at the end of 2018, but only about half are actually working in Nigeria.  As a result, there are only 1.5 doctors per 10,000 Nigerians compared to the worldwide average of 13 for every 10,000 people.  So each Nigerian doctor has to try and care for 10 times as many patients as the global average.  If the doctors do not win their strike the situation may get worse. A survey by Nigeria’s polling agency, NOI Polls in 2018 found that almost 90% of Nigerian doctors were “seeking work opportunities abroad”.

The Federal Government’s response is to threaten the doctors!  The Federal Minister of Labour and Employment said that the Government would not hesitate to invoke the ‘no work no pay’ provision in the labour laws if they failed to call off their strike.  This is incredibly ridiculous when the main reasons for the strike are the failure of the government to pay the doctors their full salaries and allowances.

Socialist Labour in expressing its profound solidarity with the striking doctors and their Association – NARD, calls on the government for adequate funding of the health care system in the country. We call on other workers in health sector, the Joint Health Staff Unions (JOHESU), the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, to provide active solidarity with the doctors strike and fight the issue of inadequate funding of health care system together on a common front. Socialist Labour also condemns governments at all levels for allowing public officials to receive medical treatment outside the country while allowing provision of health care system in the country to deteriorate.

Biodun Olamosu, National Secretary, Socialist Labour

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