Doctors hold ‘peaceful’ meeting with Nigerian government, may suspend strike

Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu

Indications that thousands of doctors in Nigeria may return to work after a seven-week-old strike came Wednesday after what an official of the Nigerian Medical Association,[NMA] described as a “peaceful” meeting between the federal government and the medical body.

The Secretary-General of the NMA, Adewunmi Alayaki, told PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday that the leadership of the association will meet within “hours or days” to consider the outcome of the talks with the government, and then decide whether to suspend the strike.

Mr. Alayaki said he could not however confirm categorically the exact day the strike would be called off.

“We finished a meeting in the early hours of today. We had a peaceful deliberation but personally I can’t tell you this is when we would call off the strike. In Our normal way, we have to call our Executive Delegates Meeting [EDM] and it is there we would rectify that,” he said in the telephone interview.

According to Mr. Alayaki, the EDM would be holding either in a few hours or days and the decision on whether to suspend the strike would be made there.

He however noted that the doctors and the federal government were no longer at loggerheads as both sides have moved away from stalemate.

He said the government made a better offer than it previously did, but members of the leadership of NMA will decide if the offer is satisfactory, and if so, will call off the strike.

“We have moved from where we were as at the last time. They were a little bit higher; that is, what the government offered. Our member will scrutinize everything and if those things are satisfactory enough for them, they would ask us to suspend the strike. The power lies in the executive delegates meeting. In the next few days we will be holding the delegates meeting.” he said.

The meeting, Wednesday, came a week after the Nigerian government fired 16,000 resident doctors for what was widely believed as punishment for their refusal to return to work.

The NMA embarked on a nationwide strike July 1 over a 24-point demand presented to the federal government.
For nearly two months, doctors working in government-owned hospitals have boycotted work, leaving majority of sick Nigerians stranded amid an Ebola outbreak that has killed five people in Nigeria.

A top consultant died Tuesday of Ebola in Lagos. Stella Adadevoh, the late physician, was infected while treating Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who brought the deadly virus into Nigeria.

Consultants violate rules, join strike

The Nigerian civil service rule restrains level 16 officers from taking part in a labour strike. The level 16 officers include consultants in the health sector. There is also a court injunction stipulating same.
However, PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that consultants in the hospitals took part in the strike and left many patients stranded in the last three weeks.

At the Kubwa General Hospital in Abuja, several consultants abstained from work except for those working at the Psychiatry ward of the Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja, where the two consultants reported to work daily.

Mr. Alayaki explained that consultants joined the strike “because they are affected too”. According to him, consultants as well, do not have enabling environments to work.

“They are affected through those things we are asking for. That is, clinical governance. When they don’t have the enabling environment they have the right to protest. That’s what happens.

“Secondly, their work is going to be hampered when they don’t have the residents with them. When the residents are not there, what can they do” he asked?

Pressed on the fate of the sacked doctors, Mr. Alayaki indicated they may be recalled, but said the decision will be clear in the coming days.

“I don’t want to say much about that. When we come out in the next few days, you will know where we are because we have not announced; so let us still leave it at they have been sacked. But we have passed that stage,” he said.

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