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Doctors’ strike and patients’ death



GREG, an energetic man in his late 50s and bread winner of his family fell sick two Sundays ago and was rushed to a hospital where he was placed on oxygen immediately as he appeared to be in coma.

  HE WAS later referred to University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, last week’s Tuesday. Two days after he was taken to Enugu, he appeared to be responding to treatment as he started moving his hands and legs which he wasn’t able to do for the past five days.

  TWO days after the hopes of his getting better were raised, Greg, who was still on oxygen, was discharged along with others because of the current strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and in the process of moving Greg to a private hospital, his condition worsened.

  THIS is always the situation of many patients who are lucky to be alive after being abandoned by doctors anytime there is strike just as the on-going one by the resident doctors in Nigeria over the failure of government to meet the demands of the association.

  THE doctors had in June (two months ago), embarked on a strike over unpaid salaries, non-payment of hazard allowances and dearth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in hospitals, among other reasons.

  ACCORDING to the president of the association, Aliyu Sokomba, their demands date back to 2017 and all efforts to use dialogue and ultimatum failed as government has not demonstrated sufficient commitment in solving the challenges.

SOKOMBA said they suspended the strike in June to give time to the government to address their concerns but the federal government has  failed.

HOWEVER, as Minister of State for  Health, Sen.Olorunibe Mamora explained on Channels Television’s Sun Rise Daily, yesterday, the federal government has paid doctors over N20 billion as COVID-19 duties allowance for April, May and part of June, this year. He elaborated that the delay in the completion of payment is as a result of the current downturn in the nation’s economy.

GOING by the scenario painted above, it is obvious that strikes by doctors generally highlight the conflict between doctors’ rights as employees and their duty to patients and that doctors strike inevitably expose patients to risks of serious harm.

  FOR avoidance of doubt, we are aware that the right to strike is recognised as a fundamental human right by the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union. Some countries even enshrined it in their constitutions, otherwise, employees have no choice but to accept whatever terms imposed by their employers.

  HOWEVER, issues around industrial actions by doctors are always complicated by the trade’s  professional values and ethical framework.

  MORE worrisome is the fact that this particular strike came in the middle of the struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic which has affected over 90,000 lives globally with over 55, 456 persons affected in Nigeria, among which over 43,334 have been treated and discharged while over 1,067 deaths have been recovered and the NARD President made it clear that doctors treating COVID-19 patients are not exempted from the strike.

  NATIONAL Light is particularly worried that doctors who swore an oath of saving lives could choose a period of such a dire global health emergency as the coronavirus pandemic which has defied solutions from the leading nations of the world, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) to embark on the industrial action.

  WE ARE not oblivious of the fact that the doctors are fighting a genuine cause which on the long run, will be of immense benefits to the patients and the entire nation as meeting their demands will make them to be more committed to their duties and improve the quality of services they give but the issue now is not how right or wrong the doctors or the governments may be. What matters most is their ability to live up to their calling in the face of this global challenge or would anyone of them be exonerated of blame or complicity if Nigerians continue to die of COVID-19 and other diseases necessitated by issues relating to the pandemic in the face of their strike?

  COME to think of it, we are all aware that the coronavirus pandemic made many nations to reschedule events and forced even the biggest economies to stand still and everyone is expected to play his or her own role to make the nation and the world win the war or at least fathom a way of living with or managing the disease.

  WE THEREFORE urge the resident doctors to have a rethink and approach the matter with regard to public sensitivity as doing otherwise portrays them as not being committed to their call.

  SINCE COVID-19 is not a development to toy with, we plead that doctors stick to the Hippocratic Oath which allows the sensitivity of life and placing service above self. As responsible professionals, they should always bear in mind that part of the oath where they avowed to abstain from all intentional wrong doing and harm.

 IT COULD be appraised  that government has not kept  to whatever agreement they had with the doctors  three years ago, even after they backed out of the strike few months ago to give government time to do their part amid the pandemic, bearing in mind that a responsible government keeps its words.

 THEY should  realise that we are already in the midst of a calamity which has attracted a lot of other health issues directly or indirectly  and be determined to do their best to win the war despite all others as doing otherwise portrays them as people obsessed with wealth and not concerned about the plight of the society.

MOST importantly, they should understand that this is just not the right time to hold government as the pandemic has put every government in lack.

GOVERNMENTS on their part should understand that they will not be exonerated of the blame of deliberately putting people’s lives in danger due to their inability to do the needful in this regard going by the three years agreement with the doctors which is the bone of contention.

  WE BELIEVE that its time the various governments, apart from keeping to their words, should adopt new policies geared towards increasing government spending on health especially in the area of human capacity and infrastructural development to afford resident doctors opportunities for skill acquisition and career development.

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