On the 2nd of August, Nigerian doctors under the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on an indefinite strike. NARD said a necessary reason for their strike was the irregularities in the payment structure of House officers in Nigeria. This is a problem that has plagued the sector twice since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Federal Government has gone from begging doctors not to go on strike, to blaming State Governors for not holding their part of previous negotiations with resident doctors.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, recently blamed governors for the strike, stating that 7 out of the 12 demands presented by NARD were responsibilities of State governments.
This is the second time the resident doctors have embarked on a strike in the covid pandemic, which is a major blow for healthcare in the country as Nigeria enters a 3rd wave of the pandemic.
As of the 8th of August, 2021, Nigeria’s Centre For Disease Control reported that there had been 471 new confirmed cases in Nigeria, with a total of 2187 deaths from the virus. Also, 178,086 confirmed cases and 165,763 discharged patients were recorded, with Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, leading with 66,151 cases so far.
Consequences from the strike could see even more churn in the sector, as Nigeria is currently dealing with a brain drain of doctors, nurses, radiographers and many others.
Timeline of strikes since the pandemic began
- June 16th, 2020: Resident doctors embarked on indefinite strike, despite attempts by the Speaker of House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila, to intervene.
- NARD warned that their strike included all medical officers below the rank of Principal Medical Officer (PMO) across all Federal and State Hospitals in Nigeria.
- They said the reasons for their strike included the non-payment of special allowances for the resident doctors, the poor state of hospitals, and lack of protective equipment for their members treating Covid-19 patients.
- The doctors also asked for the universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all Federal and State Hospitals, requesting the provision of pay parity among doctors of equal cadre and the provision of funding of medical residency training in the 2021 appropriation bill.
- June 22nd, 2020: NARD ended its indefinite strike, stating that its decision was taken in order to give the Federal and State governments time to fulfil outstanding demands.
- August 2nd, 2021: NARD resumed its strike allegedly over FG’s failure to keep to its side of an earlier negotiation.
- August 4, 2021: FG pleaded with resident doctors to return to the negotiation table and negotiate outstanding issues.
- August 6, 2021: The Health Minister said 7 of 12 demands of the doctors were responsibilities of State governments, not the FG. The Minister added that some issues of payment lay within the powers of the Accountant General of the Federation, as not all federal demands being made could be sorted by the Health Ministry.
The strike by the resident doctors means that Nigeria is living on the edge of a future health crisis, as more doctors reach retirement age, coupled with a culture of churn to countries including Saudi Arabia and the UK which offer well-paid routes to migration for Nigerian doctors, especially young doctors.
The FG needs to place the Healthcare sector on an emergency plan that will see the benefits and wages and total healthcare packages of doctors and health workers as a top priority, not just to combat the pandemic but also to secure the health of Nigerians.