23 December 2013

Nigeria: Doctors Threaten Full Scale Strike in January

Doctors across the country are set to continue a "full blown strike" indefinitely on January 6 despite a possible lull this December for the Christmas celebrations, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has said.

The doctor had embarked on a five-day warning strike last Thursday to press home their demand for government to overhaul the health sector comprehensively.

The strike could be the first major nationwide industrial action by doctors in the last six years, according to the association's own estimates.

Delegates at the NMA's emergency meeting in Minna, Niger State alleged government has not implemented any of the issues they raised in an ultimatum last September, apart from reconstituting and inaugurating a governing board for the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

"It is most distressing to note that...none of the other issues contained in the ultimatum were given deserved attention," said NMA president, Dr Osahon Enabulele.

The NMA said it has shifted its ultimatum three times this year while "praying hard for government to reciprocally respond."

Among issues at the heart of doctors' five-day warning strike which started last Thursday, they contend are the serial injustices during harmonisation of salary structures in 1999 and subsequent failures to correct the errors which has cut their income and allowances with each level of promotion gained.

"This strange phenomenon unknown to labour laws has over time contributed significantly to the high level of brain drain of highly qualified Nigerian trained medical and dental practitioners to other countries where their services are better appreciated," said the NMA in a statement.

An estimated 3, 500 Nigerian trained phy-sicians practice in Britain, with many more leaving to the US daily because of the "defect, unavailability of functional tools in the workplace, unhealthy competition," said the association.

It has also cut ratio of doctors to patients from one doctor to 600 patients to one doctor for every 5,000 Nigerians.

NMA also said universal health coverage only exists for six out of every 100 working Nigerians, compared with 60 of every 100 people in Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana.

While insisting Nigeria had to reason not to target 75% coverage for health insurance, it noted provisions of the National Health Bill that guarantee basic health package were stalling.

"If we, the custodians of healthcare delivery in Nigeria would not raise alarm over this, who will?," Enabulele asked.

Among its demands is for government to peg health spending at 10% of national budget, if the recommended 15% proves difficult.

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