Following the expiration of a two-week ultimatum earlier issued to the Federal Government, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has directed her members to embark on a five-day warning strike from mid-night of Tuesday, to press home their demands
NARD is using the strike action to seek the intervention of the Federal Government before the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration will be handing over to a new government by 29 May.
However, the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has cautioned the resident doctors on their intended action, saying it is against the law, and as such, will attract strict penalty.
Dr Ngige on receiving the NARD’s notification of industrial action, said he reached out to the Minister of Health, who told him of a planned meeting with the doctors for this morning, Wednesday.
“I will advise them to attend the meeting with the Minister of Health this morning. I will also advise them very strongly not to go on a five-day warning strike. There is nothing like a warning strike. A strike is a strike.
“If they want to take that risk, the options are there. It is their decision. They have the right to go on strike. You can’t deny them that right. But their employer has another right under Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, to withhold their pay for those five days”, he threatened.
Briefing journalists on outcome of the association’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, Tuesday, the NARD President, Dr Emeka Orji, disclosed the decision of the association as they also sought intervention of the incoming government to avoid an indefinite strike that could cripple the health system.
He said members clamoured for an indefinite strike during the NEC meeting but the association prevailed on the members in the spirit of patriotism. NARD also reasoned that it would be unfair to have the incoming government takeover amid crisis in the health sector.
“We are patriots. In fact, we are going on this strike because we are patriotic. The issues we raised with government are germane. They affect Nigerian doctors and other clinical staff. But they affect Nigerian citizens more because if these issues are not addressed, we are going to have total collapse of the health sector.
“We are talking about brain drain. We are talking about inadequate manpower in our hospitals. Nigerians are witnessing increased waiting period, when they get to hospitals to see their doctors. Some of them spend days before they get attended to because the hospitals that used to have, for instance, 100 doctors, now have 10. How will these 10 doctors do the work of 100?” he lamented.