Patients stranded as Nigerian doctors begin strike


National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, at exactly noon yesterday, made good its threat as members complied with the indefinite strike order issued by the National Executive Council, NEC, on Tuesday night.

NARD embarked on the strike, despite the intervention of speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen, who met with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Tuesday night, urging him to wade into the matter, with a view to addressing the issues at stake.

Although the Federal Government said it was already looking into the demands of the striking resident doctors towards effecting a speedy resolution, NARD said the government was yet to call them for a meeting, insisting that government’s response would determine how long the strike would last.

As of 12:30 pm when newsmen visited some of the affected tertiary health institutions in Lagos yesterday, the doctors had left their consulting rooms, as only consultants and student doctors were attending to a few patients that were caught unawares by the industrial action.

However, the effect of the strike cannot be determined at press time as many of the patients who were  present at the various hospitals may have been attended to as the strike began at noon yesterday.

While most of the patients who spoke to newsmen said they had already been attended to before 12 noon, others bemoaned the fact that they were not able to beat the time of the strike and were asked to come back next time.

Confirming the situation at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, the President, Association of Resident Doctors, ARD-LASUTH, Dr Salmon Abeeb, said their members had complied with the directive of the national body.

“We are not working at LASUTH.  However, our consultants and the medical students are there working.

“The NARD President is currently in LASUTH. We are hosting the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, programme, so all doctors in Nigeria are in LASUTH.

He said NARD was open for discussion. “In Lagos, we are yet to meet the governor of the state as NARD is open for discussion. We are open to meet with anybody who can assist in getting the issue resolved on time.

“We know the peculiarities and the dangers in the declaration of strike. But, I am sorry that this is the only language government understands.”

Giving an update on the strike, the National President of NARD, Dr Emeka Orji, said the government was yet to invite them to a meeting.

“We have always said that the issues about which we talk are germane and they can be resolved in a matter of days,” he said.

Orji, who denied report that President Bola Tinubu had begged them not to embark on strike, saying there was no evidence to support that.

He said to call off the strike, the government should at least attend to three of their major demands, including immediate payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund,  MRTF,  immediate release of the circular on one-for-one replacement of all the doctors and nurses that have left as a result of brain drain.

Also yesterday, speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, who met with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Tuesday night, urged the president to wade into the matter, with a view to addressing the issues at stake.

Earlier on Monday, Abbas had met with the national leadership of the NARD in a bid to stop the strike.

During the meeting, the speaker appealed for a two-week reprieve to enable the House leadership resolve the issues raised.

He constituted an ad hoc committee, chaired by the Leader of the House, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, with a directive to meet with all stakeholders and resolve the matter immediately.

The panel has the immediate past chairman of the 9th House Committee on Healthcare Services, Tanko Sununu (APC, Kebbi), as the deputy chairman, while all medical practitioners in the House were co-opted into the ad hoc committee.

We’re looking into doctors’ demands – FG

Meanwhile, the Federal Government said yesterday it was looking into the demands of the striking resident doctors.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Daju Kachollom, said there was ongoing consultation between the striking doctors and government.

Though she expressed surprise that the doctors declared an industrial dispute when consultations had been taken to a higher level, Kachollom assured that no efforts would be spared to ensure amicable resolution of all the contentious issues.

She said the resident doctors ought to have allowed the ongoing negotiations with the Federal Government to reach an agreed conclusion before taking a decision on strike.

Kachollom explained that the transition into the new government of President Bola Tinubu has delayed the process of negotiations.

She said: “It’s rather unfortunate that NARD is on strike because we have been having consultations since May to be precise on the demands they raised and we have met quite a number of times and governments have assured them that the issues raised are being looked into.

“There was a transition and we all know that in a transition, there is a process and until the process is completed, there is nothing we can do. Unfortunately, they decided to go on strike, we have actually taken the consultation to the highest level on the issues raised.

“The government has assured them and continues to assure them that the demands raised will be looked into.

On the way forward, Kachollom said: “We’re still going to engage them further beyond where we have because we have been engaging and I’m sure the president of NARD cannot say that we have not been engaging them, I will just say (they have) to believe in what government is doing.”

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