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‘Ongoing strike may reverse COVID-19 gains, fuel medical tourism’

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Action partially complied with in Lagos

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), yesterday, submitted that the ongoing strike by its members could reverse gains made in the containment of the novel coronavirus and fuel medical tourism.

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Describing the industrial action as ‘most regrettable and avoidable’, president of the body, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, told The Guardian: “Recall all agreements had been reached and timelines set, however, implementation has been anything but faithful, even when we have painstakingly engaged at every stage.

“Sadly the implication of withdrawal of services could among others lead to a reversal of the gains achieved in the control of the spread of COVID-19 infections, especially as we have started seeing some reduction in daily and cumulative new infection rates in the last few days.

“This however has happened as a result of increased efforts in case search, contact tracing and effective isolation and case management as has been demonstrated by doctors and other health care workers (HCWs). Am hoping the government does all that is necessary to avoid this possible ugly consequence.”

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This is even as other medics under the umbrella of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) cautioned that the development should not be allowed to linger.
HOWEVER, the exercise was partially complied in Lagos.

Unlike at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi Araba where there was no resident doctors on duty but only medical consultants and graduating doctors attending to patients, activities at Isolo General Hospital were in top gear when The Guardian visited.

President, NARD, LUTH chapter, Dr. Judith Jolayemi, said the downing of tools was inevitable after the government allegedly failed to keep to its words.

She implored President Muhammadu Buhari administration to address the pressing issues and strengthen the healthcare system.

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But the Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), Prof. Lanre Adeyemo, said as an institution, they were obligated to patients.

In his contribution, NMA ex-president, Dr. Omede Idris, noted: “I don’t see any implications beyond what has always been the situation with the strike. At least the frontline doctors in COVID-19 containment and management will still be allowed to work. The sad aspect is the government not leaving for the tenet of its agreement with the resident doctors. This has been a recurring decimal, and it is not good for the government’s credibility and integrity. We hope the lingering issue will be addressed before the situation gets worse.”

On his take, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Ugochukwu Celestine Chukwunenye, observed: “The implications are not palatable at all for the government, the people of Nigeria, the resident doctors and the parent body, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). Like I said earlier, these strikes are best avoided because of their far-reaching implications.

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“The greatest error of government has been in the way and manner the boards of health institutions are appointed. Health institutions need to be shielded from the vagaries of politics.

“The implications can be classified under healthcare accessibility, healthcare training and research, medical tourism, and stunting of our healthcare institutions national economy.”

He said the immediate effect is the denial of affordable and quality healthcare services to the teeming population.

Also speaking, joint pioneer of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Medical Director of Medical Art Centre (MART), Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, stated: “I believe all hands should be on deck to ensure they don’t continue with the strike. With the airport opening to international flights, our medical infrastructure must be ready to handle any possible spike in COVID-19.”

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