The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is made up of some 15,000 frontline doctors in Nigerian public hospitals. They are medical school graduates, being trained as specialists. They are pivotal to frontline healthcare in Nigeria as they dominate the emergency and other relevant wards in hospitals.
At about July 12, 2023, they gave Bola Tinubu-led federal government two-week ultimatum to meet their demands, especially for salary increment or they would embark on indefinite strike across the country. In short, they wanted full implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure…as at the time of the approval of the structure in 2009.
As the negotiations ensued between the leadership of the Association and the government, something tangible dropped: the federal government offered the aggrieved doctors 25 percent increase in their salary, in addition to N25,000 peculiar allowance, but the doctors rejected all that.
And on July 26, they began the Nationwide strike, accusing President Tinubu and his barely two months old government of having failed to review their salaries after removing subsidy on fuel on assumption of office on May 29, 2023. They also complained about shortage of manpower in public hospitals where they work.
As a matter of fact, they turned out to be the first public sector workers to go on strike after fuel prices rose astronomically, resulting in the increase of transport fares and every other thing.
The doctors claimed that they embarked on the strike after “having considered all the numerous ultimatums, appeals, and engagements with government.”
It should not be lost on us that the government of Tinubu we are talking about here was barely two months in the saddle. In short, as at July 26 when they called out their members on a war path, President Tinubu was just 57 days in office.
As at that time, till now, the President has not assembled those who would help him to run the Federal Executive Council (FEC), made up of, mainly, ministers. There were so many other contending issues the President faced, all requiring urgent attention. They include, but not limited to, the dust raised in several other sectors as a result of the removal of the fuel subsidy; the unified foreign exchange rate; the security challenges; the reorganisation of security architecture and several others.
In the midst of all such contending priorities, the President still gave maximum listening ear to some forces jostling for his attention, including the Nigerian organised labour movements, the Resident Doctors and others. But just at the drop of a hat, the doctors called the shots and went on strike.
Of course, we at Greenbarge Reporters online newspaper understand the point of the Resident Doctors as being valid, but (we) are not comfortable that they are raising shoulders against their employers, and more importantly, abandoning their duty call when the government they are fighting hardly settled down to even understand where the cat jumped.
Indeed, the frequent rate at which doctors go on strike in recent times, although justified to some extent, is fast creating a not-too pleasant impression in the minds of the people; about their professional training that is supposed to be biased on human empathy and saving of lives.
We are surprised that an average medical doctor would derive any form of pleasure or semblance of it over the sordid plights of the patients who, ordinarily are his primary responsibility; the patients that are dying daily in hospitals, and even in their homes. All because of his deliberate absence, as a result of the pursuit of the worldly gains.
It is even more disturbing to know that other medical personnel in public hospitals, like nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians and others, with similar complain of unmet demands by the government, do swallow their prides and continue to work to save lives as per their professional calling, and with more human feelings.
It cannot be argued that doctors are more in need of financial boost for survival, even against the backdrop of their mouth-watering take-home pay, than the others in the hospital services; those who are offering services under the same environment as doctors, for the benefit of the poor patients.
We call on the resident doctors to urgently call off this needless strike, accept the offers of 25 percent salary increase and N25,000 peculiar allowance by the government that is still finding its feet.
Negotiations for more of their demands can continue while in service, by which they may even attract public sympathy and support.
Leaving the service for whatever excuses, as a way of twisting the arms of the government, to us, amounts to insensitivity and heartlessness.
As it is said in local parlance, it is better for one to accept half a loaf of bread than for one to continue to pursue the whole loaf of bread without any hope of getting anything. In other words, the resident doctors, and in deed, other unions and associations at negotiation table, should always learn to give and take. That is the way of democracy, which is a far cry from the authoriterian postures of most of the union and association the leadership, indicating an attitude of “it is either all or nothing.”
Union and Association leaders should learn to go into negotiation room with open minds for the purpose of shifting ground as the government also shifts ground on issues at stake.