Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said the claim by striking doctors that there were inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in hospitals was incorrect.
The doctors under the aegis National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had on Monday announced the commencement of a nationwide indefinite strike in a communique issued at the end of their ‘virtual extraordinary National Executive Council Meeting’.
The NARD President, Aliyu Sokomba, said doctors downed tools over unpaid salaries, non-payment of hazard allowance, and a dearth of PPE in hospitals among several other reasons. He said the association explored several other options before arriving at their decision.
Following the announcement, Mr Ehanire said the doctors’ decision especially in a time of the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to loss of lives.
He urged the doctors to show empathy by calling off the strike.
Despite the plea, the Nigerian government threatened to invoke the ‘no work no pay rule’ on the striking doctors.
The association, however, described the government’s threat as “empty and the biggest joke of the century”, adding that the doctors are not intimidated and will go on with the strike until their demands are met.
PPE ‘adequate’ – Minister
Mr Ehanire while speaking at the bi-weekly Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing on Thursday said he had ensured that PPE was widely distributed to public hospitals nationwide.
He noted that extra efforts were being made to ensure that PPE was made available where needed.
“I had a meeting with the resident doctors in my office this morning and we had frank discussions. It is clear that there are some things they are frustrated about and they are justifiable.
“They made some observations which can be remedied easily like the one for Personal Protective Equipment which as matter of fact has been distributed widely in two phases; first to each state government and secondly to every tertiary hospital in all the states. So I’m not sure the information about the PPE is correct because I have prioritised the issue of PPE,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES recently ran a report where Nigerian medical practitioners lamented the dearth in PPE and other welfare packages.
Mr Ehanire also courted public criticism when he recently said he was not aware if health workers receive hazard allowances despite claims by the authorities.
Also, Mr Ehanire said the increasing number of cases should be considered a warning that fatalities would equally increase.
He appealed to persons above the age of 50 and those with pre-existing ailments such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, kidney disease, HIV and others, to ensure they are specially protected at all times.
He urged persons within this category to limit their exposure to the virus by staying at home and wear a face mask in public places.