The industrial action embarked on by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) took a toll on patients yesterday.
Many patients were ejected from hospitals across the country as the doctors stayed away.
NARD began the indefinite strike yesterday.
The National President, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, announced the strike on Saturday in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, at the end of the association’s National Executive Council meeting.
He cited the Federal Government’s failure to implement the agreements it entered with the union 113 days after it suspended the previous strike.
Okhuaihesuyi also blamed the poor working conditions in public hospitals, irregular payment of doctors’ salaries and hazard allowances of N5,000 monthly, which was reviewed last in 1991.
According to him, NARD members were yet to be enrolled in the integrated personal payroll information systems meant to prevent salary shortfalls due to an embargo from the Head of Service of Federation.
The association said only one of 19 families of doctors who died while treating COVID-19 patients had received their death-in-service insurance.
He accused Minister of Health, Dr Ehanire Osagie and Minister of Labour and Employment Dr Chris Ngige, of not keeping their words.
Our correspondents monitored government hospitals across the country and report that lives are being put at risk with the strike.
The Federal Government and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have disagreed on steps being taken to urgently end the indefinite strike commenced yesterday by NARD members.
While the government said yesterday it had started engaging the striking resident doctors, NARD’s President Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi said the claim was false.
But, the government said while the search for the amicable resolution of the issues in contention continues, medical directors of all federal and state hospitals should ensure that services were not disrupted in their facilities.
Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire made the government’s truce efforts known during the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Ehanire said: “The Federal Ministry of Health is engaging resident doctors who have embarked on industrial action with a view to quickly resolving the issues. While this is ongoing, medical directors at federal and state hospitals are directed to ensure that service delivery is not disrupted in their centres.”
But NARD President Okhuaihesuyi told The Nation that the Health ministry had yet to contact the association in any form.
Okhuaihesuyi accused the ministry of frustrating the agreement between the Federal Government and NARD..
He said that the ministry not only feigns ignorance of the issues but continues to insist that the government has no money to pay the doctors.
The NARD boss added that while the ministry insists that there is no money, the office of director-general of Budget categorically states that fund was available.
Okhuaihesuyi said, “The government has not reached out to us. We have to survive to be able to treat people. Some people don’t even have money to go to work. Some doctors have asked me to give as much as N5,000 at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital.
“We are not working under the Federal Ministry of Labour but the Federal Ministry of Health. Dr. (Chris) Ngige who is the minister of Labour and Employment, is just a conciliator, and he has been the one trying to make ways for us not to have problems.
“However, anytime we go to the table to talk about everything, the Ministry of Health people, behave as though they are just hearing about the issues for the first time.
“The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health as part of the people that signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) concerning the shortfalls of 2014 to 2016, but when we got to the table, he was the first one to say that the government does not have money. Why will he say that? That is the same thing they have said over and over again. That is where our problem lies.
“It is not about signing or coming for meetings. It is about getting solutions to things that are happening.
“Their stance that there was no money was refuted by the Office of the Director-General of Budget. The Hospital Services office at the Federal Ministry of Health is sabotaging everything we are doing. It is very disheartening.
“We hope Nigerians will not think we are strike-hungry because we have waited for 114 days in the hope that the government will do their own part. But till now, we still don’t have anything.
When the Nation contacted the Director of Hospital Services, Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi, she said she had no comment on the matter.
Adebiyi said Ehanire should be reached for information and clarification.