National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria NARD have rebuffed Federal Government’s moves to sign a new Memorandum of Action MoA, towards the implementation of an earlier Memorandum of Understanding MoUsigned with the government, saying only implementation of all agreements and payment of all arrears would make them call off the strike, which has entered day three.

Meanwhile, there have been lamentations across the 36 states of the country and Abuja by patients and their relations, who have been abandoned to their fate due the strike embarked by the doctors since April 1.

President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, who spoke in Abuja on Arise TV news programme, noted that for 10 years, the doctors have been signing agreements with the government, none of which has been implemented while the healthcare industry in the country gets worse by the day even as the ruling class and most politicians resort to medical tourism abroad at the expense of the country.

He clarified that the main aim of the strike was to address the poor working condition not only of the doctors but also of the nurses and laboratory scientists, arguing that whatever affects one segment of the country’s healthcare system affects the others.

For instance, he disclosed that there is total absence of basic medical equipment in most government hospitals, citing the instance of the National Hospital, Abuja, which does not have MRI and CT Scan machines and the University of Ibadan Teaching Hospital UCH, which also does not have both machines as well as radio therapy for the treatment of cancer patients.  

According to him, more than five years after, the doctors are still paid N5, 000 monthly hazard allowance while Senators are paid N1.2million monthly hardship allowance, which he noted speaks volume as to where government’s priorities lie.

Other statistics released by the association show that since the discovery of the first case of COVID-19 on February 27, 2020, no fewer than 382 health workers have been exposed to the virus with a total of 1, 824 active cases and 17 deaths, which cover doctors, nurses and lab scientists, insisting that all health workers deserve a good working environment.

“As we speak, health workers in Abia State University Teaching Hospital ABSUTH are owed over 20 months of unpaid salaries while their counterparts are owed for not less than five months. We have tried to use the Governors’ Forum to appeal to them but we discovered they are not interested.

“We have lost 17 doctors to COVID-19; many others would have died due to Lassa fever and other infectious diseases. As it stands, no death in service insurance has been paid to the families of the diseased or their loved ones.

“They have failed to train resident doctors to become consultants and this accounts for why they embark on medical tourism at the expense of the Nigerian state because they are not willing to fix the healthcare system in the country”, the president also lamented.

He also noted that only four out of the several months of arrears of allowances were paid while only three months of the COVID-19 allowance, which was agreed to by both parties in an earlier MoU was paid, insisting that it makes no sense signing more agreements that would never be honoured.

Recall that the association had on June last year embarked on an indefinite strike. The strike was to protest the harsh working environment the members have been subjected to, especially under the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the death of many health workers, including doctors.

The association also listed the failure of the government to implement the life insurance policy for health workers, more than three months after it was announced and non -payment of COVID-19 hazard allowance.

Others include the slashing of salaries and allowances of health workers, who are on the fore front of the fight against coronavirus, citing Kaduna State then, where Governor Nasir el-Rufai  effected over 25 per cent cut in salaries and allowances of health workers, harassment of health on legitimate duty by security agents as well as the lingering issue of lack of Personal Protective Equipment PPE for health workers.