The industrial action embarked on by resident doctors yesterday paralysed activities in government hospitals nationwide.
LEADERSHIP gathered that federal government-owned hospitals and health institutions across the states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja started discharging patients and stopped admitting new ones.
The doctors, under the aegis of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), had at the end of their National Executive Council meeting in Umuahia, Abia State, resolved by vote to resume the total and indefinite strike by Monday.
In a communiqué issued at the end of their meeting, the doctors demanded, among others things, the immediate withdrawal of the circular removing House Officers from the scheme of service and decried the undue hardship doctors on GIFMIS platform were facing due to the delays in payment of their salary arrears ranging from three to seven months.
NARD further expressed concern over the poor response of most state governments in domesticating the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017 while commending states like Delta and Benue, which have adopted the law.
Our correspondents report that resident doctors in most of the hospitals visited complied fully with the strike directive from their parent body by staying away, leaving medical consultants and nurses to offer skeletal services.
Doctors at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi, joined their colleagues across the country to commence the indefinite strike, leaving patients and their relatives to bear the brunt.
When LEADERSHIP visited ATBUTH, Bauchi, patients and their relatives complained about the timing of the strike and called on the government to immediately intervene.
Patients on admission were seen leaving the hospital for either their homes or private hospitals after they were discharged untimely by the striking doctors.
Also, there were no doctors on ground to attend to patients at the outpatient medical unit of the hospital.
The wards at the hospital were empty as relatives of patients on admission were seen packing their belongings to leave the hospital, having been notified of the commencement of the indefinite strike.
A resident pediatric doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the strike, which he described as unfortunate, was needless if the government had done the needful since NARD called off its last strike action.
He said, “This strike is so unfortunate. In fact, it is needless if the government has done the right things they are supposed to since the last time we went on an indefinite strike.
“Unfortunately, it is not every Nigerian who can afford to be treated at private hospitals. There are people whose conditions are very critical who may not afford private hospitals at this time. Some of these Nigerians may, unfortunately, die due to this strike.
“Nigerians should not only appeal to the government but also hold government officials to respond to these kinds of deaths that are avoidable. Doctors are human beings as well but the government must implement their agreement with us for the betterment of the Nigerian health sector.”
He, however, expressed hope that the current strike would not be allowed to last long, assuring that as soon as the government intervened and did the needful, doctors would go back to work.
A relative of a patient, who identified himself as Yunusa said, “My uncle was admitted here about two weeks ago and he has been receiving treatment before they told us that doctors would no longer attend to him and others on admission because of a strike.
“This is unfortunate. This strike is not well-timed at all. It is coming at a time things are very difficult for the average Nigerians. As it is now, we have to take my uncle to a private hospital in town to continue with his treatment. What is going to happen to those who cannot afford to pay for private hospital treatments”.