The industrial action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, is trailed with controversy as the doctors and the Ministry Of Health give different accounts of the cause of the strike with the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, turning her back on the striking doctors and threatening to sanction them.
The national body of the resident doctors had Wednesday given a directive to all its members to embark on a three-day warning strike which is scheduled to end on Saturday.
The resident doctors commenced the strike to press home their demand from the Ministry of Health and the Federal Government following alleged breakdown of previous communications.
The president of the NARD, Ismail Lawal, said the doctors are protesting poor funding of residency training of its members by the Federal Government. He said the “strike is not to make people suffer unduly” noting that unlike previous industrial actions, concrete plans were on ground to avoid loss of lives as emergency cases would be treated in all hospitals across the country.
A residency training is a structured six year programme which some doctors undergo in order to become specialists in various fields of medicine.
“All we want is for the government to take training of resident doctors as a serious issue, which will eventually be of great benefit to the country,” he said.
Mr. Lawal said that only N20 million was allocated for training of resident doctors in the 2013 budget as against N150 million allocated in previous budget.
“This is a huge difference as you can see and this is the month of June and most of our doctors have not gone on training.
“We have asked for a supplementary budget for the training, but the Federal Government has failed to honour our request,” Mr. Lawal said.
Residents doctors have complied with the strike directive from the association. At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idia-Araba, Lagos, only emergency cases were being attended to while the outpatient unit remained shut.
The case was slightly different at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, ABUTH, as the strike paralysed the teaching hospital. Out patients who trooped to the hospital left ABUTH in utmost disappointment, while those on admission were attended to by nurses and senior doctors.
Corroborating Mr. Lawal’s claims on why the NARD embarked on the strike, Emeka Ugwu, President of the LUTH Chapter of the association told PREMIUM TIMES that “we’re on strike because we have to follow our national directive and it has to do with issues about training of resident doctors.
“We believe that Nigerian doctors can be trained to the equivalent of what obtains abroad and Nigerians won’t need to go abroad anymore for medical treatment as what obtains at the moment. We want the government to provide sufficient funds for residency training”.
According to Mr. Ugwu, the NARD had given a 21-day ultimatum which expired on June 18, and also gave an extra eight day extension which ended on June 26.
“We are appealing to Nigerians to please understand what we’re doing; it is in their own interest and the present state of health in the country is quite unfair to them. We however appreciate the present minister of health and the president for providing funds for training but it is not enough,” the Lagos doctor said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that some hospitals like LUTH were given about N21million last year to train 500 resident doctors, an equivalent of N42, 000 per doctor while the teaching hospital in Enugu got only N5million.
The University College Hospital in Ibadan reportedly got nothing which affected the residency programme of the doctors.
“In LUTH, we have a large body of residents while an exam costs more than that sum. Is there any course that can be taken care of by that sum?
“We want Nigerians to prevail on the government to provide sufficient funds so that we can have standard healthcare delivery system. We still do have specialists in the country, thus, it’s high time Nigerians get involved,” Mr. Ugwu said.