THE nation’s teaching hospitals may experience another round of industrial crisis anytime from now if resident doctors carry out their threat to resume their suspended strike. They are planning to down tools again over the alleged failure of the Federal Government to fulfill the terms of the agreement it entered into with them.
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has ordered its members to withdraw their services from the 25 tertiary medical facilities across the country. Its President, Dr. Muhammed Adamu Askira, explained that the decision to embark on another round of strike was reached at the end of their national executive council meeting held between July 25 and 30 in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
He further argued that a series of agreements reached with the government on NARD’s demands were yet to be implemented by the managements of the tertiary medical centres. Askira also alleged that resident doctors were being unduly victimized and sacked, particularly at Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) and Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH). He also pointed out that others were yet to be reinstated contrary to the agreement the NARD reached with government.
The NARD president regretted that despite the promise of the Federal Government to ensure the commencement of payment of their arrears which accrued since 2014, before the end of July 2016, resident doctors in all the affected 25 branches are yet to receive these entitlements.
The resident doctors had suspended their nationwide strike on June 24, 2016 following the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and other prominent Nigerians. In view of the negative impact of industrial actions on healthcare and the contentious issues involved, we call on the Federal Government to honour its agreement with the resident doctors without further delay. The penchant of successive administrations for reneging on agreements they freely entered into with workers’ unions is legendary.
Government should stop toying with the health of Nigerians who are daily dying of preventable diseases occasioned by the dearth of medical equipment, expertise and supplies. We call on government to take the funding of the health sector more seriously. It should stop promoting medical tourism, especially those embarked upon by government officials and political office holders.
There are some rich Nigerians who can afford the luxury of medical treatment abroad. But, what of the ordinary Nigerians who cannot afford such overseas medical trips? Some of these poor Nigerians are daily struggling to meet their basic human needs.
Government should, therefore, spare a thought for this category of Nigerians and fulfill its agreements with resident doctors to prevent the avoidable deaths that will arise from this strike. We say this considering the fact that the long neglect of the tertiary medical centres is the reason Nigerians troop abroad to treat all manner of illnesses, including those that can be handled in the country. It is also the reason many Nigerians are dying so young. It should worry the government that some of our notable citizens now die abroad where they go for medical treatment, only for their families to start soliciting funds to bring their corpses back to the country. Is it not even a security risk for our leaders to seek medical treatment abroad? Why should the leaders of the giant of Africa have to go abroad for medical treatment?
Let the government give high premium to issues that border on the health- care of Nigerians. And, the way to start is by ensuring that our tertiary care system is functional. The government should quickly address the issues raised by the leadership of NARD. It should not allow this strike to go on. All Nigerian workers, doctors inclusive, must be treated with respect by the government.
The authorities should not joke with our medical doctors. Doing so will be playing with the lives of 150 million or more Nigerians. This is unacceptable. The doctors should be empowered to discharge their responsibility of care to Nigerians.