Doctors Fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria Are Striking to Protest Unpaid Wages and Lack of PPE
Doctors in Nigeria have announced they’ll be going on indefinite strike as of June 15, according to a statement released by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
It will be the second time in less than a month that Nigerian doctors have gone on strike as Africa’s most populous country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 300 lives in the country so far.
The doctors, via the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), first went on strike on May 20 to protest police harassment of its members despite publicly declared exemptions for health care workers.
The NMA had instructed its members to “proceed on a sit-at-home” because it had become unsafe for them to “continue to provide health care under the present confused arrangement.”
This time the issues are a little different.
In the statement, issued by NARD national president Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, the doctors said the strike action was necessary “following the inability of the government to meet our demands upon the 14 days ultimatum duly given to the Federal Government for indefinite strike action.”
As part of its demands, NARD is asking the federal government and state governments “to provide adequate personnel protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators, gloves, etc. to all health workers,” as well as a plethora of payments and COVID-related allowances the doctors were promised three months ago when the pandemic first hit Nigeria.
It also called for the payment of arrears owed to its members at both federal and state tertiary health institutions in line with Nigeria’s new minimum wage.
Furthermore, the statement says the government should “make alternative arrangements for the care of the patients as the strike shall be total and indefinite. No service of any kind, be it emergency, [but] care at COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres shall be exempted.”
This strike action comes at a critical time for Nigeria as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase daily. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) announced 553 new infections two weeks ago on May 30, the highest number of coronavirus cases it has reported in a single day yet.
Nigeria has a history of doctors strikes; including as far back as 2004 and as recently as 2017. Unfortunately, the issues have not changed much and doctors continue to be underpaid and overworked due to a shortage of doctors and poor funding of a struggling public health care system.
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