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Two weeks after they issued an ultimatum to force government to consider their demands, Doctors across Nigeria go on infinite strike on July 1 over pay, appointment titles and positions.
National delegates of the Nigerian Medical Association who met last Saturday to consider government response to some 24 issues doctors have raised over the years concluded response to their demands was nonexistent even though both sides have met within the two weeks of ultimatum.
Doctors were “taking this painful route because our silence and gentle approach to these contending issues have been taken for granted,” NMA president, Kayode Obembe, told a press briefing in Abuja on Monday.
But NMA set “minimum endpoints”—the least response it is ready to accept from government—on each of the 24 issues it raised in an open letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, published in newspapers on June 16.
It said only a government circular agreeing to its “minimum endpoints for restoration of sustainable sanity in patient care in Nigerian hospitals will end the strike.”
Among its minimum end points, NMA wants created positions as DCMAC—deputy chairman of medical advisory committees—to remain in teaching hospitals and federal medical centres.
It is also against the use of the nomenclature “director” for anyone in hospitals other than a medical doctor, but insists non-medical workers can attain the height of their careers.
It also wants the title “consultant” in a hospital setting reserved for doctors handling patients and not applied to appointments of non-doctor consultants, insisting it “will be a source of confusion.”
“Patients in hospitals belong to the medical doctor. The title ‘consultant’ confers ownership of the patient on the specialist medical doctor and therefore should not be used by any other health worker in the hospital setting with immediate effect,” said Dr Obembe.
In consideration of patients, doctors also demand speedy passage of the National Health Bill, universal health coverage to all Nigerians—even suggesting an extra one kobo per second on call costs to finance a community health insurance fund.
NMA wants a surgeon-general of the federation appointed “with immediate effect, in accordance with [the President’s] pronouncement.”
It also wants the Central Bank to withdraw a circular authorising Medical and Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria to approve licences for importation of in-vitro diagnostics (tools for lab tests), insisting that the council was duplicating the role of NAFDAC and causing obstacle to adequate development in healthcare.
“People are relaxing laws around medical equipment, but in Nigeria we are multiplying the obstacles,” said Dr Obembe.
Pay for doctors is even more controversial, after it demanded at least N100,000 per month in hazard allowance for doctors, up from a present N5,000, citing dangers doctors are routinely exposed to.
Clinical duty allowances for honorary consultants should be increased by 90% of consolidated medical salary scale, NMA requested, and doctors should be allowed to skip pay grades as other health workers are allowed.
The indefinite strike doctors have called is the second this year, after they called but suspended a previous strike on January 5.
“We have to take this action in order to save the health care delivery system from anarchy that is palpably imminent,” said Dr Obembe.