It seems every union in Nigeria is fighting the Federal Government; from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to even petrol tanker drivers (Petroleum Tanker Drivers Branch of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (PTD-NUPENG).
The latest to join the queue are doctors, with the Nigerian Association of Residents Doctors (NARD) threatening to strike if their demands are not met before the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on January 24.
But what are these demands and how would their absence affect Nigerians if the strike happens?
A list of piled-up debts and demands
This isn’t the first time the doctors will threaten to go on strike. In August 2021, they did live up to their threats and went on a two-month strike that ended in October 2021.
This was after the Federal Government had refused to pay entitlements such as salary and COVID-19 allowance, as well as an increase on the low hazard allowance, (a fee paid to workers who do dangerous jobs), which was only N5,000 per doctor.
Two years later, even though the Federal Government has paid off some salaries and the COVID-19 treatment allowance, there are a lot of outstanding demands.
These include the payment of salaries from 2014 to 2016, an adjustment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), and overdue payment of the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), amongst others. Even the hazard allowance, which was increased to N34,000, has not been paid since its approval in December 2021.
Now that we understand why they want to strike, how will their latest tussle with the government affect us?
Expect more deaths
Nigeria has a double-digit mortality rate, as you can be sure of approximately 12 deaths among 1,000 people. The statistics are worse for pregnant women, as a 2022 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report states that 576 pregnant women have died in the course of 100,000 live births. The cause? Lack of access to healthcare, according to Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire.
If we have such bad statistics now, imagine how it would be when there are no doctors available.
It will affect business
A lack of doctors will ultimately lead to a lack of patients, which will affect the income of business owners around the hospital premises. Think of grocery store owners that need people to buy consolation gifts for patients, transport workers, and so on.
Patients will not receive top-tier healthcare
Patients who are under hospital admission for an extended period of time would feel the brunt of the strike the most, as the strike would mean fewer doctors to give them the medical attention they deserve, especially in times of emergencies.
This is already happening with the rise of the doctor brain drain. Nigeria only has approximately 24,000 doctors in the country as opposed to the mandated 363,000.
This is a wake-up call to the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, to answer the demands of the NARD before we have another strike. If you want to take up the challenge for these doctors, you can get started here.
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