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No going back on indefinite strike, resident doctors vow

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Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos

MDCN cautions house officers against joining the action

Patients and their relatives in over 56 teaching hospitals and federal health institutions across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja may be in for a very rough ride.

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This came as resident doctors, yesterday, began an indefinite strike to demand the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they signed with the Federal Government on the improvement of their welfare.

When The Guardian visited some public hospitals across the country, yesterday, there was slow but total compliance by the about 16,000 resident doctors working in these institutions.

Patients and their relatives were stranded. Most of the hospitals were not admitting new patients. Others advised those on admission that they would be discharged since the hospitals no longer had the capacity to attend to their medical needs.

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However, other cadres of doctors like medical consultants and doctors-in-training were seen attending to some patients at emergency centres.

National President of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Guardian: “There is no going back. The strike is indefinite. We can only call off the strike when they do what they are supposed to do. We have families to take care of. We have lost 19 of our colleagues to COVID-19. What is going to happen to their families? The Federal Government has not met the promise made to their beneficiaries.”

Reacting to the report that the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, had invited them for a parley yesterday, Okhuaihesuyi said: “We have not received any invitation either formally or informally. Nobody has reached us. The only thing we want is the full implementation of the MoU and Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) reached with the Federal Government 116 six days ago.”

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The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), meanwhile, has cautioned house officers against participating in the ongoing strike.

The council warned that doing so would lead to a repeat of posting without remuneration.

In a statement in Abuja, Registrar of MDCN, Dr Tajudeen Sanusi, said house officers should avoid industrial actions that could lead to interruption in their postings.

Sanusi directed Chief Medical Directors, Medical Directors, and Medical Superintendents to note their responsibilities and ensure that all doctors, over whom they have administrative charge, followed all extant regulations.

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He said: “The attention of the Council has been drawn to the news of the industrial strike announced by the National Association of Resident Doctors and it is in the light of this that Council is constrained to issue this public notice as guidance to practitioners and the general public.

“MDCN regulates medical and dental practice in Nigeria including clinical laboratory practice by members of the professions as stipulated by the provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act Cap M8 LFN 2004.

“Medical and dental practitioners on the Provisional Register who are employed as house officers, heads of health institutions where housemanship training for medical or dental graduates are conducted, and the general public, should note the provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act in sections 1(2c), 8, 11, 12, the rules and guidelines that flow therefrom including the Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria (2008 Ed) and Guidelines on Registration.

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“Provisional registration is for the purpose of enabling young doctors to undertake housemanship training in approved hospitals under the supervision of registered specialists. Provisional registration lapses after two years or immediately a doctor is signed off from housemanship. Generally, it is expected that on employment, house officers should complete their postings within 12 calendar months.”

He noted that during the housemanship, doctors and dentists are required to undertake 12 weeks’ uninterrupted postings in each of Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Paediatrics, and other relevant specialties for dentistry.

According to Sanusi, “Any interruption for any reason, including embarking on strike actions, during any of the postings, will not be condoned, and should be reported immediately to the Chief Medical Director, Medical Director or Medical Superintendent of the housemanship training Institution.”

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At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), a mother at the paediatric ward said the strike did not affect the treatment of her child. She, however, feared that care could stop if nothing is done to stop the strike.

A patient at the accident and emergency unit, Samuel Janet, with a fatty liver disease, was on a drip while doctors attended to her.

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Her mother, Mrs. Joy Samuel, who spoke to The Guardian, said they were informed that the strike had commenced but that doctors were still giving treatment to her daughter.

She expressed fear that her daughter’s health might deteriorate if the doctors stop administering care to the child due to the strike.

Mrs. Adeyemi Fatima, whose son was due for surgery in the chest region, urged the government to meet the demands of the striking doctors, saying she couldn’t bear the pain of losing the child.

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