Following the indefinite nationwide strike embarked upon by residents doctors in Nigeria, the Federal Government has sacked all the doctors in the country indefinitely. This is according to a circular dated 13 August, 2014, signed by L. N. Awute, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, on behalf of the minister directed the suspension of residency training programme for doctors in the country.
The circular also called for the termination of appointment of all resident doctors in the country to enable the government appraise the challenges facing the Nigerian health sector. It will be recalled that the doctors had been on an indefinite nationwide strike since 1st July, 2014, in protest of Federal Government’s non-implementation of some agreements it had with the union.
Other demands being made by the resident doctors included immediate appointment of a Surgeon-General of the Federation and increase of hazard allowance to N100,000 monthly. The doctors were also demanding reservation of the position of the chief medical director for medical doctors only.
The circular, however noted that “this is without prejudice to the employment of Locum Physicians on six months renewable contract, tied to productivity and good behaviour.”
The locum appointments, the circular stated, were to be approved by the president through the minister of health.
“Let’s see how this will work. Except they want to kill the teaching hospitals and the health sector in general,” a resident doctor told newsmen.
He explained that he believed the incessant strike by resident doctors and the NMA was what influenced the government’s decision but doubted that it would be effective.
“In our own teaching hospital, about 90 per cent of the doctors are resident doctors, there are few medical officers. So how can you sack 90 per cent of doctors in a hospital?” he asked rhetorically.
While reacting to the sack order, chairman, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr Jubril Abdullai, told the Nigerian Tribune that the decision was illegal, adding that the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) would take appropriate steps as regards the situation.
According to the NARD boss, it was an act of law that set up residency training programme in Nigeria, adding that for the country to abolish it, legal steps had to be taken.
He noted that an emergency meeting had just been held with the national body of doctors, adding that “I can bet it with you that this is just the beginning of the strike.”
In the same vein, vice president of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr Titus Ibekwe, while speaking on the matter, stated that the association was in a meeting to discuss the issue.
Resident doctors in Nigeria are doctors being trained to become specialists/ consultants in different fields of medicine. During their 4 to 5 years training to become consultants, they work in different government hospitals and make up the majority of doctors in teaching hospitals.