Over the weekend, the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari met with the Nigerian Medical Association. The purpose of the meeting was to address the ongoing Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors on strike. During the meeting, the President pleaded for health workers to return to their posts. He urged them to go back to work while negotiations were underway. The NARD strike has now lasted 40 days. Others present at the meeting were Chris Ngige, and the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
This meeting comes a few days after the Federal Government insisted on “no work, no pay.” Chris Ngige had also carried the case to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria. FG had insisted that they would not withdraw the case if doctors did not return to work.
NARD however asked the FG to focus on meeting the 12-point issues they presented. Some of the demands included; payment of House Doctors, disbursing the Residency Training Fund and adjusting the National Minimum Wage.
The Presidency noted that they had seen the 12 point demands and had already addressed some of them. He explained that one of the points, a review of the hazard allowance, was still being negotiated. This was because of the division within the ranks of the doctors. The Presidency also promised to pay all outstanding benefits they were owing to the doctors after carrying out the necessary verifications.
As part of the efforts to meet the needs of the doctors, the Presidency had set up a Health Sector Reform Committee. The Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo is set to chair this committee while working with state governments and the FCT. The purpose of the committee is to develop and implement a Health Sector Reform program for Nigeria.
The Presidency explained that embarking on a strike, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, was not a good option. He mentioned that many precious lives would be lost if doctors stopped attending to them and urged them to opt for another means to resolve their differences. He pleaded that the nation’s economy had taken a huge hit due to the pandemic and the country was having fiscal challenges. He explained that Nigeria’s main source of revenue for years was dwindling while the population was rising.
On the NMA’s role in fighting the pandemic, the Presidency commended them. He stated that the association had effectively handled the pandemic in the country, earning the nation a good name but at home and abroad. He recognized the recent appointment of Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu as the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization as proof of this. Dr. Chikwe is the Director-General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).
Prof. Innocent A. Ujah, the President of the NMA led the meeting. He thanked the President for meeting with them. He also thanked him for appointing NMA members into leadership positions in Government.
He further stated that the association was doing its best to reduce the effects of the strike on patients. He pleaded for a quick resolution so that more patients did not have to suffer.
While the strike continues, patients are seeking medical attention from private healthcare centers. Nigerians with HMO from private healthcare centers are also unaffected by the strike and are still able to receive medical attention when needed.