Nigerian Hospitals, Patients in Limbo as Doctors' Strike Enters Second Day

Abuja — Nigeria's third doctors' nationwide strike, which kicked off on Monday, has paralysed government hospitals and taken a toll on the sick as public hospitals start rejecting and discharging patients.

The strike involving resident doctors, which has been intermittent since November 2020, stems from medics protesting poor welfare.

Most of the doctors in the country's health institutions, including 36 teaching hospitals, complied with the strike directive, leaving only medical consultants and nurses to offer skeletal services.

Resident doctors constitute the highest number of doctors in Nigeria, with more than 380,000 spread out across the nation, of which more than 15,000 are in Abuja alone.

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (Nard) has resumed a nationwide, indefinite strike it suspended in April after it signed an agreement with the federal government in March.

Patients leave hospitals

The resumption of the strike on Monday, precipitated by neglect of the agreement, has forced admitted patients to start leaving hospitals for either their homes or private hospitals. Additionally, there are also no doctors to attend to patients at outpatient units.

"This strike is so unfortunate. In fact, it is needless if the government had done the right things as they are supposed to since the last time they went on strike," said Adamu Bello, a patient at the Specialist Hospital in Gwagwalada in Abuja

"Unfortunately, it is not every Nigerian who can afford to be treated at private hospitals. There are people whose conditions are very critical who may not afford private hospitals at this time. Some of these Nigerians may, unfortunately, die due to this strike."

Askira Ahmed, a relative of a patient in Government Hospital, Abuja, lamented the timing of the industrial action.

"My uncle was admitted here about two weeks ago and he has been receiving treatment before they told us that doctors would no longer attend to him and others on admission because of a strike," he said.

Not well-timed

"This is unfortunate. This strike is not well-timed at all. It is coming at a time things are very difficult for the average Nigerians. As it is now, we have to take my uncle to a private hospital in town to continue with his treatment. What is going to happen to those who cannot afford to pay for private hospital treatments?"

The doctors, through Nard, are demanding immediate withdrawal of a circular removing house officers from the scheme of service as well as settlement of dues resulting from salary delays running between three and 18 months.

They also say they are unhappy with the poor response of 36 state governments in domesticating the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017.

Nard has also warned that the "no-work-no-pay" directive issued by the Nigerian government aimed at compelling doctors to end their strike will not work.

Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the Nard president, on Tuesday said the government should sanction relevant agencies for not implementing the deal reached with doctors that led to the suspension of their strike in April.

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