Doctors’ Exodus Amid Industrial Dispute

Doctors’ Exodus Amid Industrial Dispute
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The media have been awash in both social and traditional platforms alike on the allure of greener pasture in foreign countries by Nigerian doctors. Indeed, it is believed that other professionals in the health and medical sector beside the doctors are also in the rabid rush to move to other climes.

Only recently, a recruitment agency found Nigeria the fertile nest to recruit willing doctors to Saudi Arabia even as controversies took a better part of the said engagement. Doctors were reportedly head over heels, trying to get enlisted and leave behind the already grim and battered sector back here.

According to statistics, with Nigeria’s population put at about 200 million, the ratio of doctor per patient remains 1:5, 000 as against the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of 1:600, which poses severe risk on the health of the populace as health indicators may continue to decline and get worse.

AljazirahNigeria takes particular note that this is indeed not a bright picture by any standard.

Experts in the health sector have stressed that given the current situation, the nation needs about 300,000 doctors to meet the WHO’s standard recommendation for doctor-patient ratio, which is in a parlous state as it were.

Even with these negative scenarios, doctors have continued to leave the country in droves outside the established and known protocols. Some exit in the guise that they were leaving for further studies, only to find themselves integrated in their host countrys’ health system where they end up excelling in their vocation.

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We are therefore bold to state that the number of the nation’s health professionals plying their trade in other shores may not be approximated any time soon as the flight and brain-drain is on the increase.

Worse still, against the backdrop of these grim challenges facing the health sector, with the mass exodus of its finest professionals, some 19,000 doctors across Nigeria are on strike for the fourth time since the start of the pandemic, with some of them citing various unwholesome working environment occasioned by lack of pay, unpaid and inadequate allowances.

The stoppage has left government-run hospitals and COVID-19 treatment centers short of staff.

The latest strike comes as Nigeria confronts an avalanche of new COVID-19 cases blamed on the delta variant.

Resident doctors in Nigerian public hospitals began an indefinite strike on Monday, August 2 over grievances that include the delayed payment of salaries and allowances, the doctors’ union said, as coronavirus infections shoots up going by the tally kept by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC).

AljazirahNigeria is deeply dismayed over the perennial strike actions by our doctors over what they say are poor conditions of service. Last year they walked out of their jobs three times, including over demands for their risk allowance for treating COVID-19 patients.

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Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, president of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), said the strike had started a few weeks on, and that the government had not reached out to the union since it gave notice of the industrial action.

Asked whether the action by the resident doctors would affect the current COVID-19 vaccination drive, Uyilawa told the media in a mobile phone message: “Hunger is worse than COVID-19. We have lost 19 members to COVID-19, with no death-in-service insurance.”

On his part, the health minister, Dr. Chris Ngige said in a statement that the ministry is engaging the doctors to resolve the issues quickly, adding that medical directors should ensure service delivery is not disrupted.

Nigeria has seen a rise in coronavirus cases since mid -July. Some 174,315 cases and 2,149 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began in early 2020, official data shows.

However, NARD had insisted that salary shortfalls stretching over months, failure to pay some doctors COVID-19 risk allowances and shortages of manpower and consumables in hospitals were among the reasons that had pushed its members to the action.

Resident doctors are medical school graduates training as specialists. They are pivotal to frontline healthcare in Nigeria as they dominate the emergency wards in hospitals.

Uyilawa said his union represented 16,000 resident doctors out of a total of 42,000 doctors in Africa’s most populous country. We consider that a huge percentage which should not be trivialised.

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AljazirahNigeria is concerned over the continuous degeneration in the sector occasioned by the migration of doctors who mostly were trained with tax payers’ monies especially if they had attended public institutions is counter-productive and a national dis-service which should be blamed on indiscretion by those who should be circumspect where it was necessary.

We find it equally dishonorable for the government to reportedly renege on the agreement it had endorsed with the doctors after an earlier deadlock just months ago. It is only when various sides to an issue ‘walk the talk’ that there could be a unanimity of propose, otherwise it would amount to moving in circle, with all motion and no movement.

AljazirahNigeria unequivocally calls on the government to create a smooth environment for these professionals to ply their trade and further stem the tide of losing our very best to other countries, even as it would also exacerbate the lot of Nigerians who are the worst hit by the strike action and exit of the doctors.


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