Doctors Strike: Another Nightmare Coming

Doctors Strike: Another Nightmare Coming

A fresh threat by the Nigerian Association of Residents Doctors, NARD, has again sent concern across many Nigerians as worry that should the doctors eventually go on strike, it could spell doom for a sector already battered by several factors.

They maintained that a strike was inevitable if the government failed to meet their demands.

In a letter addressed to the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, recently, and signed by President of NARD, Emeka Orji, it said processes for the strike would commence if the demands are not met before its National Executive Council, NEC, meeting scheduled for January 24.

Resident doctors are doctors undertaking training to become specialists/consultants. They make up the bulk of the doctors in Nigeria’s tertiary hospitals and when the NARD goes on strike, activities are crippled in government owned hospitals.

About six months ago, the association issued an ultimatum to the government on account of lingering unresolved issues affecting its members; including the irregularities in the new circular on the upward review of the Medical Residency Training Fund, MRTF.

The doctors are demanding amongst other things, the immediate implementation, and payment of the new hazard allowance and arrears.

NARD said some arrears for 2014, 2015, and 2016 have remained unpaid despite several negotiations with the government.

It also listed the nonpayment of the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage to some of its members and delays in the upward review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure ,CONMESS.

The doctors also highlighted the failure of the government to clear salary arrears of members in state tertiary health institutions including Abia, Imo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Gombe States, and the non-domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act, MRTA, in most states across the federation.

The doctors said although some of the demands have been addressed, many of them remain largely unresolved and have become sources of serious nationwide agitation.

“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the government through its ministries, departments, and agencies in resolving some of the issues raised.

“However, many of them remain largely unresolved and have now become sources of serious nationwide agitation threatening industrial peace and harmony in the health sector”.

NARD said the major ones amongst them are “Omitted 2020 MRTF payment, irregularities in the new MRTF circular inconsistent with the Medical Residency Training Act, existing collective bargaining agreements and current economic realities and review of CONMESS salary structure”.

The issues which form the basis for their discontent may not be clear to an uninitiated and those who are not familiar with the kernel but there is a meeting point to the effect that there are still grey areas to be sorted out between the authorities and the doctors who have been engaging in strikes over their collective welfare.

It is not in our collective interest to allow another round of strike by doctors, especially that we understand the enormous negative effects of the last long-drawn strike which took a damning toll on the nation.

We point out that each time that doctors go on strike; it leaves untold hardship for hapless citizens who can neither afford the luxury of medical tourism nor private sector-run hospitals. It is imperative at this point to recall the age-long axiom that; “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers”.

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