20th August, 2014
Last week’s suspension of at least 16,000 resident doctors across the country by the Federal Government was a hasty and wrong action that could further jeopardise the already precarious state of the nation’s healthcare delivery system.
The government did not only stop at the suspension of the resident doctors. It also announced the suspension of Residency Training programmes in all federal hospitals across the country.
The Deputy Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Isiaka Yusuf, explained in a statement that the programme was suspended pending when all challenges in the health sector are addressed. Though it was initially reported that the resident doctors were sacked, government refuted the claim and maintained it was a suspension. While the Federal Government had claimed the move was to allow it appraise the training programme, the action has been trailed by harsh criticisms as it is seen as a lame excuse to justify its action.We believe, as many Nigerians do, that this approach is not the best way to resolve the trade dispute it has with the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA.
Though we are not in support of the on-going trade dispute because it has exposed the sick masses to grave danger as they can no longer have access to public health facilities across the country, the Federal Government needs to keep to its terms of agreement with the NMA. Ideally, strike actions seem not to be the best way to resolve dispute, but experience in the past has shown that the only language the government understands is strike action. Such trade dispute persists until the government is compelled to keep to the terms of agreement with its striking workers. It happened in the cases of ASUU and ASSUP.
With the dearth of trained medical personnel and the lack of state- of-the-art medical equipment in all the government hospitals in the country, among other deluge of problems in the health sector, why couldn’t the government take up its statutory responsibility of equipping this sensitive sector to prevent concerned unions or associations from embarking on strikes?
The statement credited to the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, that the doctors have not been participating in the management of Ebola disease and that they would not be missed after their suspension, misses the point. The doctors’ suspension would only aggravate the already bad situation, made worse by the outbreak of the Ebola disease. No matter the excuse being given by the Federal Government, the suspension is ill-timed. It is coming at a time Nigeria is plagued by the Ebola disease and at a time a state of emergency should have been declared in the Nigerian health sector.
Government should immediately rescind the decision and recall the suspended doctors and seek better ways to resolve the trade dispute with them to avert disaster in the health sector. This is not the time to take a decision that could boomerang on all Nigerians.