The National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD) has explained why it commenced an ‘indefinite strike action’ barely two months after it was suspended.
The strike came as different countries of the world struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed nearly 900,000 lives globally.
The NARD president, Aliyu Sokomba, said the doctors downed tools over the failure of the government to meet some demands of the association made in June.
He noted that doctors treating COVID-19 patients are not exempted from the strike action.
“We just resumed the suspended strike which we embarked in June this year. We suspended the strike to give the government time to assess our concerns. Unfortunately, they failed to do so,” he said.
Resident doctors make up a large percentage of doctors in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals.
The doctors had in June embark on a strike over unpaid salaries, non-payment of hazard allowance, and a dearth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in hospitals, among several other reasons.
The NARD president noted that their demands date back to 2017 and all efforts to use dialogue, ultimatums failed as the government has not demonstrated sufficient commitment in solving the challenges.
“They have not made PPE available in various institutions across the country, we don’t have life insurance and our residency program has remained unfunded and worst still many governors are not paying salaries,” Mr Sokomba told this newspaper.
The government at the time threatened to invoke the ‘no work no pay rule’ if the union continued with its strike. The union described the threat as “empty and the biggest joke of the century.”
The strike was suspended after a week following the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and other Nigerians.
Mr Sokomba said the decision to suspend the strike was taken in order to give the federal and state governments time to fulfil the outstanding demands.
The NARD president said its members agreed to resume the strike due to the government’s failure to meet their demands after a grace of 10 weeks.
He said the government’s failure has hugely contributed to the setback in residency training mainly due to lack of adequate funding.
“You will recall that the speaker of the House of Representatives publicised that he has captured residency training funding in the budget.
“But this has not translated to availability of the funds because our residency training programme has continued to suffer setbacks as a result of poor funding,” he said.
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The Nigerian government had promised a special COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance of 50 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary to all health workers in Nigerian teaching hospitals, Federal Medical Centres (FMCs), and designated COVID-19 centres.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said about 5,000 frontline health workers have been given life insurance by the Nigerian insurance industry.
However, Mr Sokombo said relatives of health workers, who have died in the line of duty, are yet to receive a dime of their benefits.
“We have the problem of life insurance procurement for our members. We have demanded in the past that the life insurance package which is already in existence as a government policy be implemented.
“Most of our members that have died, we want their next of kin to get their deaths in service benefit. We were told that insurance companies have been given needed funds to commence payment but not a single person has been paid,” he said.