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Nigerian Medical Association Group asks govt to withdraw directive to replace striking doctors

Members of National Association of Resident Doctors on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, began a seven-day strike.

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Nigerian Medical Association. play

Nigerian Medical Association.

(Flair NG)

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the threat by the Federal Ministry of Health to employ temporary doctors to replace resident doctors currently on a warning strike.

The association made the demand in a statement jointly signed by its President Prof. Mike Ogirima, and Secretary-General, Dr Yusuf Sununu, and issued in Abuja on Saturday.

Members of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on Wednesday, Jan. 18, began a seven-day strike which is expected to end on Wednesday,  Jan. 25.

NMA noted that the government made the threat in a circular issued on Thursday by the Director of Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health to Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of Tertiary Hospitals.

The association emphasised that members of NARD were on strike to enforce their unmet demands which bordered on the poor state of health of Nigerians and the welfare of its members.

It identified the issues as unattractive poor working environments in public hospitals, which was continually weakening the health workforce through brain drain.

It noted efforts to distort the harmony among healthcare workers by some individuals within the Federal Ministry of Health which were threatening to completely derail the health system.

It said NARD was bothered by selective and biased implementation of the contents of various government circulars and agreements with regard to the remuneration of doctors.

It described the alleged distortions as a perfect indication of a lack of political will to end the prolonged crisis in the health sector.

It said NARD was also concerned about the delay in bringing out a white paper on the various postgraduate medical training programmes in Nigeria.

“The poor state of our health institutions has not been in doubt as demonstrated by the World Health Organisation ranking the Nigerian Health System as number 187 among 191 countries in 2015.

“The repeated patronage of foreign hospitals by our top government officials and increasing medical tourism to hospitals overseas by well to do Nigerians,’’ NMA noted were among issues of concern to  NARD.

The association said that the issues in dispute had already been  resolved at meetings mediated by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu  Dogara, in 2016.

It said, “agreements with timelines for implementation were reached with the Federal Ministry of Health, NARD and the NMA on 14  July, 2016.

‘’Regrettably, these agreements and timelines have again been breached by the Federal Ministry of Health.

“We, therefore, call on the Honourable Minister of Health to urgently and decisively deal with the saboteurs of government policies within the Federal Ministry.

“It is expedient that government works urgently to sincerely address all the issues that are responsible for the ongoing crises in the Nigerian healthcare sector to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.’’

It added: “ NMA wishes to state explicitly that it will not fold its arms and watch the training of medical specialists and the healthcare system being desecrated by any individual or clique.

“We shall exploit every means within the law to ensure that justice is done and that the Residency Training Programme, all doctors practising in Nigeria and the welfare of all healthcare workers are treated with the utmost seriousness they deserve.’’

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The association restated its commitment to ensure close monitoring of the developments and called on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on government officials not to further jeopardise the health of Nigerians.

The current threat is not the first time that government has threatened to sack striking doctors.

In June 2016 the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, directed chief executive officers of Federal Government tertiary health institutions to fill vacancies created by resident doctors on strike. .

The Goodluck Jonathan administration also sacked 16,000 resident doctors on Aug. 14, 2014 for participating in a strike.

The doctors, who were on strike for more than six months, especially during the Ebola outbreak in the country, were recalled two weeks after the directive.

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