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Published On: Tue, Aug 26th, 2014

Residents divided over suspension of strike by doctors

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NMA-Logo-Medical HealthBy Stanley Onyekwere

Some residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have expressed divergent views over the decision by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), to suspend its protracted nationwide strike and return to work, 55 days after.

Peoples Daily reports that the NMA National President, Dr. Kayode Obembe, while briefing newsmen on Sunday, after an Emergency Delegates Meeting (EDM), in Abuja, said it was necessary suspend the longest strike ever in the health sector, following the emergency of Ebola outbreak in the country, saying it would enable doctors respond appropriately to the disease burdens, sufferings and aspirations of ordinary Nigerians.

 Consequently, the Association directed all doctors in the state and Federal owned hospitals to resume their duty yesterday (being Monday).

The Association had called for a total and indefinite national strike, July 1st, after handing the federal government, a 24-point demand, which was not met. And the prolonged strike action had drawn a lot of criticisms from both Nigerian populace and other health workers, who said the doctors were being greedy and selfish.

Meanwhile, some residents described the striking doctor’s decision to shield their swords and resume work at various public health facilities as a welcome development, others lamented that due to the strike action the nation has recorded a colossal damage on its health sector.

In particular, some residents questioned the objectives of the doctors’ for embarking on the strike in the first instance, lamenting that they (ordinary people) were the ones greatly affected by their withdrawal of services from the public health institutions in the FCT and the country at large.

They frowned at the doctor’s decision to allow their hitherto industrial action to drag on even in the wake of the recent outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country, saying it has further derailed the nation’s health sector.

Our correspondent reports that the majority of the section of residents, who spoke to Peoples Daily,  said that following the

development (Ebola outbreak), they had expected  the then striking medical doctors, as patriotic Nigerians, to have suspended their strike, and join forces with other health professionals in the country to tackle the deadly epidemic.

However, prior to the calling off of the strike, only nurses and other auxiliary workers were attending to patients at the various general hospitals and other public clinics.

This, was despite growing public outcry, the doctors have vowed that the strike will still continue because they have not gotten anything tangible from the government.  According to them, there have been several meetings to reconcile and come to a midway but government has not done anything concerning their demands.

A resident at Jabi, in Utako district, Umar Abu, decried that the suspension had rather came at a belated time, following the current health crisis facing the nation due to the incident of the Ebola epidemic causing panic among the people.

“Ordinarily, with the raging health crisis due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease in the country, the doctors should not wait to be swayed into considering resuming work, in order to help contain the scourge,” he expressed.

Another resident, in Wuse, Chima Austin, who accused the doctors of being insensitivity to the real issues affecting the people, for whom they had taken professional oaths to service, said it was not clear what they achieved with the strike action.

According to him, the NMA is a professional association providing essential humanitarian service not a trade union, that it’s always quick on calling out its members on strikes, and do a collective bargaining with the government.

“Nevertheless, at least it’s over now that the finally (aggrieved doctors) must have realized that it was illegal of them not to suspend their strike despite stakeholders’ plea.”

“It is important for the repentant doctors to join efforts with other stakeholders, to ensure that we find solution to deadly diseases spreading fears over the land,” he stressed.

Similarly, another resident, Adeleye David, said since the doctors withdrew their services from the public hospitals, plight of the people has been compounded.

“But we are feeling a great sign of relief now that the doctors have agreed to resume at public hospitals; I’m sure they must have realized that on a daily basis many people are dying because of their absence,” he said.

However, a resident in Garki area, Okeke Ibeh, said the striking medical doctors have done well by heeding to the peoples’ passionate appeal to immediately call off their nationwide strike action and return to work, so as to alleviate their sufferings.

According to him, there is no doubt that the nationwide doctors’ strike was taking its toll on healthcare services in public hospitals in the FCT and other parts of the country.

 “But thank God that they (doctors) have decided to make a U-turn, in the interest of the people. I commend them for taking the bond step to save the people from further exposure to hardships,” he added.

Checks revealed that Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses on Earth, with 90% of fatality is highly contagious, as it spreads through contact with bodily fluids like blood, sweat and vomit. It claimed its first Nigerian victim, a nurse, who among those that treated Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian, who died of the disease in Lagos, recently.

Also, prior to the doctors’ resolve to resume work at public hospitals, some concerned observers had also opined that with heightened threat of Ebola virus, and the doctors bent on trading blames with the government over the protracted strike is more than ever truncating healthcare services in many public medical facilities in FCT and the across the country.

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