The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has ordered doctors at the COVID-19 isolation centres to join the nationwide strike it began on April 1.
The NARD has also threatened to impose a fine of N5m on any of its branches that fail to join the strike.
It also said branches found wanting would not be able to hold any national position for the next two years.
While the President of NARD, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, in an interview with one of our correspondents disclosed the directive to doctors at the isolation centres, the threat to impose a N5m fine on errant branches was contained in an internal memo sent out to members by the National Executive Council of the association.
Recall that NARD, an association of doctors undergoing residency training, had on April 1 begun a nationwide strike over government’s failure to pay salaries of house officers and review N5,000 hazard allowance of doctors.
Last-minute efforts on March 31 by the Federal Government to prevent the strike failed as the doctors shunned an agreement they signed with government on the grounds that proposals contained in it were not new.
On April 1, there were reports that members of the association at the COVID-19 isolations did not join the strike on compassionate grounds.
But the internal memo of the association obtained by The PUNCH on Monday threatened to impose N5m fine on any branch that shunned the strike.
It read in part, “NARD affirms her commitment to the welfare of all members. All members of NARD will be levied the sum of N2, 500 as strike levy for the smooth prosecution of the industrial action.
“Penalty for any centre that sabotages the industrial action will be payment of a fine of N5m and suspension from holding any NARD national officers committee positions for two years.”
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the strike, which entered its fifth day on Monday, might be taking its toll on the COVID-19 response.
Okhuaihesuyi said doctors at the isolation centres, who are their members, were asked to join the strike because of the importance of this particular industrial action.
“I know some people may think we are selfish but this strike is about improving the health sector and improving service delivery,” he said.
The NARD President, however, said consultant doctors should be able to handle emergencies at the isolation centres for now.
NARD comprises over 40 per cent of the total number of doctors in Nigeria. There are some 42,000 doctors in Nigeria, out of which 16,000 are resident doctors – medical school graduates training as specialists.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, told The PUNCH that he was confident that chief medical directors in several states would be able to make necessary adjustments.
Mamora, however, said he was confident that the strike would not be prolonged because meetings were still being held between the Federal Government and the leadership of NARD.
“I do not envisage a situation where the strike will continue because we are making every effort to resolve the impasse. I’m hoping we will continue with dialogue and also ensure we can resolve the issues with NARD because they form a major work force within the system in terms of clinical work.
“So, it is in the interest of the country to have these things sorted out soon. I’m aware that the various CMDs are also putting in place contingency arrangements,” Mamora said.
Also speaking with our correspondent, the CMD, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, Prof. Bishop Ekele, said most of the doctors at the hospital’s isolation centre were not members of NARD.
Ekele also noted that the number of patients at the isolation centre had dropped drastically.
He said, “About 90 per cent of the doctors working at our isolation centre are consultants. So the strike should not have any effect at our side” he said.
The branch of the association in Cross River State confirmed to The PUNCH that members of the association had withdrawn their services from COVID-19 isolation centres.
The Chairman of the branch, Dr Godwin Udoh, said before the strike, “it was resident doctors who were manning isolation centres. We are in the same union. There is no resident doctor working at the isolation centres now. “
He also supported the N5m fine slammed on any state branch of the association which failed to join the ongoing strike.
The NARD at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano said it was aware of the N5m penalty fee.
The AKTH Chairman of the NARD branch, Dr Mujahid Hassan, in a telephone interview with The PUNCH, said the fee was to ensure members’ compliance with the strike.
On COVID-19 isolation centres, Hassan said most of the doctors that work at the isolation centres were employees of the state government.
Patients at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital on appealed to the Federal Government to accede to the request of the striking resident doctors.
Speaking on his sick bed, a patient said, Abdulkareem Idris, stated, “I’m suffering from prostate cancer.
The doctors complain of lack of adequate manpower and necessary equipment to work with. With high volume of patients in this hospital, there are no enough staff to cope with the situation. I call on the government to grant their requests. I’ve been coming here since last year September for treatment of prostate cancer. I was brought here last Tuesday for emergency treatment while the strike commenced last Friday.”
The Chairman of the NARD at the UITH, Dr. Badmus Habeeb said that the strike action was 100 per cent successful.
The President of the Association of Resident Doctors in Akwa Ibom State, Dr Ekemini Udoh, in an interview with newsmen, said, “All the doctors including those at the isolation centres have withdrawn their services, every doctor below the rank a consultant. Any doctor at the isolation centres is either a consultant or NYSC doctors.”
Patients at the Jos University Teaching Hospital said they were disappointed by government failure to stop the strike.
One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was admission for chest pains, adding that no doctor had attended to him since the strike started.
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