Despite overwhelming public appeals, striking medical doctors in Nigeria have stuck to their guns by refusing to shift grounds on their demands which other workers in the health sector have described as selfish
| By Chinwe Okafor | Aug. 4, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THERE seems to be no end to the strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, on July 1. The NMA and the federal government have failed to reach a compromise since the industrial action started. Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, and the Nigerian Society of Physiotherapists, NSP, have lent their voices to the public appeal urging the striking doctors to return to work.
The NANNM, has described the ongoing nationwide strike by the NMA as selfish, unethical and illegal. The association alleged that the strike was a well-calculated and orchestrated plan by the doctors to divert patients to their private clinics to milk them of their hard earned resources. They also advised the federal government to stop all government employed doctors from establishing private clinics while in service in the interest of the citizens of this nation.
According to the nurses, all government health workers should have unified salary scales adding that the differences should be entry/exit points and professional/peculiar allowances of the different cadres of workers because this will go a long way in checking and preventing unhealthy rivalry and as well put an end to the incessant strike action that leaves the innocent patients to suffer.
The nurses, therefore, encouraged patients to attend and patronise the hospitals despite the current strike because other health professionals such as skilled midwives, accident and emergency nurses, intensive care nurses, orthopaedic nurses, paediatric nurses, including the medical laboratory scientists, medical record officers, the radiographers, the physiotherapists and pharmacists, are on ground to attend to their health needs even when the medical practitioners have embarked on their selfish and illegal strike.
The NANNM also condemned what the doctors described as the unethical behaviour or practice of medical practitioners whereby in-patients are compulsorily discharged against their wish whenever the NMA calls for industrial action. “ The NMA does this to make it appear to the public and the press that the patients left the hospital because doctors are on strike. The public at large must be made to know that most in-patients are in the hospital for comprehensive healthcare and are being taken care of by the nurses and other health professionals, except those that have been booked for surgical procedures or surgical operation.
“The doctors therefore have no moral or ethical justification to compulsorily force the in-patients out of the hospital to make the hospital empty because doctors are on strike,” NANNM insisted. On its part, the NSP has also urged the NMA to end the on-going strike and save lives of millions who have no means to fly abroad for medical treatment. Taiwo Oyewumi, president of the Society, said the NMA should rescind its decision and listen to the voice of reason as it concerns life.
In a related development, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, has commended the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, and the Assembly of Health Professional Associations for dragging the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, and its affiliates, to court over the crisis in the health sector.Olumide Akintayo, president of the PSN, said the NMA had perennially constituted itself into the law by declaring frequent unlawful strikes through which it illegitimately negotiates favourable conditions of service for its members while at the same time dictating what other health workers can earn.
Akintayo said: “For years on end, we at the PSN, have always insisted that the NMA, the National Association of Resident Doctors and the Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria, and other appendages are not trade unions and so cannot legally be said to have a locus standi in trade disputes. It is our strong affirmation that the JOHESU vs NMA matter at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, NICN, has all the propensities to fundamentally resolve once and for all, so many contentious issues which have ravaged the health sector albeit retrogressively once and for all.”
Also, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, under the leadership of Jonah Jang, governor of Plateau State, has called on the NMA to end its current strike for the sake of the lives the doctors have sworn to save. Jang begged the leadership of the NMA to remember their Hippocratic oath as “the strike is devastating the lives of the poor people in the nation who can only afford medical care in government-owned medical facilities.”
He also reminded the striking doctors that their friends and families were not immune from the effects of the strike, “as anybody can fall ill or be involved in an emergency at anytime and anywhere in the country.” He then called on the doctors to end the strike on humanitarian grounds and engage in an honest dialogue with the federal government to stop the pain and suffering being inflicted on Nigerians by their action.