National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD), on Monday began a nationwide strike.
From Frank Ikpefan, Moses Emorinken, Abuja, Ogochukwu Anioke, Abakaliki, Nwanosike Onu, Awka, Justina Asishana, Minna, Uja Emmanuel, Makurdi, Duku Joel, Maiduguri
But the Federal Government directed them to return to work because it had met six of their eight demands.
Our correspondents, who went round some hospitals, reported that NARD members, including those in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, complied with their national leadership’s call to drop their stethoscopes.
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige, in a statement by the Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Health, implored the NARD members to resolve the outstanding issues with the Federal Government through dialogue.
He explained that in spite of the lean resources available due to the COVID-19 effects on crude oil, the government had addressed most of their demands, including Special Hazard and Inducement Allowances, and Group Life Insurance.
The minister however, reminded the doctors that by labour laws and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, when issues are being conciliated, all parties are enjoined not to employ arm-twisting methods to intimidate or foist a state of helplessness on the other party, in this case, the Federal Ministry of Health.
He said: “There is a pending case in the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), instituted by two civil society groups against NARD, the Minister of Health, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as well as the Minister of Labour and Employment.”
The doctors first embarked on an indefinite strike on the June 15, but suspended it June 22 due to the intervention of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
They gave the government a four-week window to meet their demands on or before August 17.
But yesterday, they decided to resume the strike, having reached the conclusion that government had failed to fulfill its promises.
NARD National Publicity Secretary of the association, Dr. Stanley Egbuogu, told The Nation that the strike was total in many hospitals.
He said: “Doctors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have complied fully because in most of the places we visited today (on Monday), we observed full compliance.
“We are also getting reports from different centres. By the end of today (yesterday), we will now be able to assess how far we have gone with compliance. For now, the result has been good.
“None of our members in treatment and isolation centres for the management of COVID-19 patients is working. Only consultants and other doctors that are not our members are working.”
NARD Chairman in Ebonyi State, Chidubem Osuagwu, said the doctors At the Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital in Abakaliki were protesting the non-implementation of the COVID-19 welfare package.
He said: “The Federal Government did not respect the agreement we had we them. They were to pay for six months, but they paid only April and May.
“The agreement was that they would pay 60 per cent of basic salary to doctors working in any hospital treating COVID-19 while other health workers would get 40 per cent.
“Also, there is an additional 20 per cent to those treating COVID-19 patients.”
Osuagwu said the doctors also had issues with the residency training.
“They claimed that it was captured in the 2020 Budget, but up till now, there has been no implementation. The last report we got is that there was no provision for it,” he added.
In Anambra State, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) members, also joined in the strike.
NMA Chairman, Dr. Jide Onyekwelu, said: “We have called out our members to observe the action by our parent body. So, we are on strike.”
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi, there were no doctors to attend to patients.
But the state NARD chairman at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital in Awka, Dr. Chukwudi Okani, said his members were not participating in the strike.
Patients were stranded for hours at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Bida, Niger State, due to the strike.
The strike also paralysed activities at the FMC and Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) both in Makurdi, the state capital.
As earlier as 7 a.m, doctors at the FMC abandoned their patients for junior medical personnel.
Some patients in critical conditions were evacuated to private medical facilities .
FMC’s Chief Medical Director, Dr. Peteru Inundu, described the strike as unfortunate.
He urged the doctors to cancel the strike in the interest of the patients.
BSUTH Chief Medical Director, Prof. Terlumun Swende, also urged the striking doctors to return to work.
NARD President at UMTH, Dr. Kaka Sanda, told The Nation that his members were prepared fully for the strike.
Sanda said: “We have complied fully with the directives of our national body. Today (yesterday), all our members did not report for work and we will continue until our issues are resolved with the Federal Government.”
But UMTH spokesperson Mrs. Justina Anaso, however said the hospital was functioning fully because other doctors and nurses were not participating in the strike.