While Nigeria battles multiple concurrent disease outbreaks amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, which has caused unprecedented disruption in healthcare services, the repeated strike action by the country’s healthcare workforce is further heightening the disruption as patients are faced with lack of care and access to service.
Patients, being the victims of this action, are groaning, especially the poor who cannot afford private hospitals.
Whereas the idea behind these frequent strikes may be justified, the common man on the street always bears the loss, considering its implication on more than 50 per cent of Nigerians who are living below $1 per day.
The most vulnerable people in this situation are the pregnant women, people with chronic ailments and parents of under five children, especially those who cannot afford private hospitals.
LERDERSHIP recall that the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), had embarked on a nationwide indefinite strike on September 7th, 2020 and the strike was suspended on September 11.
Three days after, the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) commenced its nationwide strike in all federal health institutions.
NARD, again on January 2021, gave the federal government till 31st of March to meet its demands after which it brought it’s threat to action by embarking on a nationwide strike on April 1st. The strike was suspended after 10 days, after it reached an agreement with the government in the Memorandum of Actions (MOA) signed at the instance of the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige.
On August 2nd, just less than four months, the doctors have embarked on strike again. As the strike continues, LEADERSHIP findings revealed that general hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of the country are rejecting and discharging patients, except those in critical conditions who are still being attended to by consultants and house officers.
An out patient with the Asokoro District Hospital, Mr Matias Okudili, told our correspondent that he was on his way to the hospital on appointment with his doctors on Monday when he heard in the news that resident doctors had embarked on strike.
He said he didn’t bother going to the hospital because his experience during the last strike was not funny.
According to Okudili, his neighbour who was almost dieing was rejected in three general hospitals during the last strike embarked upon by resident doctors.
This is currently the situation of many Nigerians in the country as the ongoing strike has crippled activities in public hospitals across the country.
While the call for the government to find a lasting solution to the problem has heightened, resident doctors have blamed incessant strike in the country on government.
Immediate past president of NARD, FCT chapter, Dr Roland Aigbovo, told LEADERRSHIP that if government truly wants to put an end to incessant strike in the health sector, it needs to be sincere in its dealings and most importantly, it needs to invest in the sector.
Aigbovo called on government to prioritise the health sector, saying with this, these issues will not arise.
This has also been identified as part of the factors promoting brain drain in the health sector as many of the professionals are compelled to seek greener pasture outside the country due to what they described as poor welfare, remuneration and infrastructure.
The sector’s human resource profile falls short of the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation.
The Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the WHO recently launched the Nigeria Health Workforce Profile 2018, an update of the 2012 profile, and handed over of the Nigeria Health Workforce Registry.
The profile revealed that Nigeria has a ratio of one doctor to 2,753 members of the population whereas WHO recommends one doctor to 600 members of the population.
It also showed that the number of medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) were 74,543 which equates to 36.3 medical doctors per 100,000 population; a doctor to population ratio of 1: 2753.
The data showed a variation in the distribution of medical doctors by state of practice from the reported 2012 density, as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), in 2012, had the highest density of 82 medical doctors per 100,000 population, whereas that of Katsina reduced from 2.5 per 100,000 population in 2012 to 2.0 per 100,000 population, and Zamfara increased marginally from 2.5 per 100,000 population to 2.7 per 100,000 population.
Stakeholders therefore, worried that even with the level of brain drain in the sector, government is not concerned about the few remaining.