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Concerns over doctors’ indefinite strike today

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Osagie Ehanire


• Frequent industrial actions becoming embarrassing, says minister

Experts have raised health concerns as the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) begins an indefinite strike today.The notice was at the weekend served on the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and chief medical directors/medical directors of all federal and state tertiary health institutions.

Director General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Babatunde Salako, told The Guardian: “The strike portends danger for the health system as schools have been given the green light to reopen. Who will take care of the expected surge in COVID-19 outbreak? I believe dialogue is still what will solve the issue. Government should be proactive before it gets out of hand. The doctors also should review their strategies as the strike appears ill-timed.”

Professor of Virology and Chairman, Expert Committee on COVID-19, Oyewale Tomori, noted: “The implications of their strike will be solely on the poor and the ordinary citizens. The big ones have alternatives, and they could care less.”

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To the Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi Araba, Dr. Chris Bode, “our understanding is that this is a strike called by the national body to pressure government over some demands relating to the residency training programme and non-payment of COVID-related allowances to some hospitals.”

HOWEVER, the minister has faulted the decision, accusing the medics of impatience and uncoordinated communication.He maintained that the implementation of the pact struck by all parties transcends beyond his ministry to the Salary and Wages Commission and other ministries.

Ehanire said the situation was fast becoming embarrassing to the country, stating: “Nigeria is the only nation where doctors have gone on strike three times during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The minister went on: “We are engaging them as usual. The issue of meeting their demands is multi-layered. It is not just the Ministry of Health. It involves the Ministry of Finance, Salary and Wages Commission, as well as the Ministry of Labour and Productivity. We have been telling them to be patient and allow us sort it out.

“The issue of hazard allowance is all part of it. It has to do with money. All we hear is that they are going on strike; they don’t engage us. I have always told them that the door to my office is always open to them.

“The effort to contain COVID-19 is not a one-person issue. It is a national responsibility. All of us have roles to play. Doctors are also at risk of getting infected and dying from the virus. If you set your house on fire, you will be burnt. This is a global emergency. You are not hearing doctors going on strike all over the world, except in Nigeria.”In his remarks, NARD president, Dr. Sokomba Aliyu, said the association had exhausted all peaceful means.

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