• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Patients lament uncertain fate as doctors’ strike bites hard

MDCAN wants full implementation of National Health Act

Patients across various public hospitals in the country are lamenting their uncertain fate as the strike called by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) continues to threaten healthcare delivery.

Over the years, every administration has had to be confronted with industrial actions which have become a recurring phenomenon in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation on the continent.

Doctors’ pivotal role, especially resident doctors who make up the bulk of workforce in public hospitals in caring for the sick and restoring health to those who are unable to shoulder the exorbitant cost of healthcare delivery in private hospitals, cannot be downplayed.

However, these services, which sometimes come at a reasonable price, have been halted by an indefinite strike which greeted patients in public health institutions across the country on Monday, August 2.

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The doctors, under the umbrella of NARD, embarked on industrial action, insisting that the government meets their demands. They proceeded on the strike after the expiration of the 113 days ultimatum earlier issued to state and federal governments to address doctors’ welfare, among other sundry issues.

Barely three days after the strike commenced, medical services in government-owned hospitals across the country have been partially paralysed, while patients in dire need of healthcare are left at the mercy of God with fewer doctors available to attend to them.

When our reporter visited the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) Benin City, it was observed that patients are already bearing the brunt of the disagreement between the striking doctors and the federal government.

Guardians and relatives of patients were already strategising ways to seek alternative elsewhere. While those with little or no resources at their disposal to access private services were abandoned to their fate.

Although other doctors, including house officers and consultants, were not part of the strike but Jessica Shedrach, a middle-age mother, who brought her toddler daughter to access healthcare, was seated helplessly after she was directed to come back the following day due to the strike.

“I come from a far place and as it is now, I have to go to any pharmacy around my area to get drugs for my baby since I can’t get access to the doctors to give me proper prescriptions,” she said.

Also, MacAndrew Emmanuel, a 55-year-old Nigerian, who was tired of waiting for doctors at the Consultant Outpatient Department (COPD) said “my card has been on the table since and no one attended to it. Nigeria has developed beyond where medical personnel go on strike but I don’t know what is really happening between the doctors and the government.

“Most of us don’t have money to travel abroad like politicians, we depend solely on our facilities. So, the government should do everything possible to save the masses from dying.”

Speaking with BusinessDay in Benin City on the persistent strike, Ifeanyi Ufuani, chairman of NARD at UBTH, said, over the years, successive governments have always reneged on their promises prompting them to return to the same demands they have been seeking for almost a decade.

Ufuani noted that the compliance level among members is 100 percent, adding that the consultants, who are not members of the association of resident doctors, nurses, pharmacist are on ground.

“However, we make 70 percent of the workforce. You can imagine when that huge figure is withdrawn from offering services. This thing we are fighting for doesn’t not only affect doctors. Hazard allowance goes round every health worker.

“The public should talk to the government because this strike we recently embarked on is the same strike we had in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and now, 2021. It shows that we are not the problem but the people who have not meant their side of the agreement,” Ufuani said.

“It is for us to liaise with the government to keep their promises and we will resume our duty. It is in the hands of government to decide whether we will resume or not,” he added.