Nigerian resident doctors who have been on strike since July 1, 2014 were sacked on Wednesday, 13th August, 2014, by the Federal Government (FG). According to government sources, the strike has compounded the health crisis in the country.
The FG argued that the striking doctors had rejected all moves to end the strike. The sack affected about 16,000 resident doctors.
It is not too difficult for the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) to understand where members of the Nigerian Medical Council (NMA) are coming from. With the deteriorating health situation in the country coupled with the presence of archaic health facilities in the public health sector, NMA as a union is seeking improvement in health delivery.
It is on record that NMA leadership raised the alarm last year concerning the implications of manpower flight. The body complained that out of the total number of registered doctors which stood at 65,000 in 2013, only 25,000 are practicing in Nigeria and this is the number that attends to 170 million Nigerians. 40,000 qualified and registered Nigerian medical doctors are practicing outside Nigeria. We regard this development as pathetic, unfortunate and appalling. MURIC is of the opinion that those who chose to stay behind for love of their country deserve better treatment.
MURIC is disturbed by FG’s poor response to the allocation to and provision of sufficient funds for the health sector.
Whereas the 2001 Abuja Declaration stipulates that 15% of every African country’s budget should be devoted to the health sector, FG allocated a paltry four percent to the sector in 2011, five percent in 2012, 6.04 percent in 2013 and even reduced the allocation to the sector in 2014. The N262.74 billion budget for the health sector in 2014, represents a 6.7 percent decrease against the 2013 allocation of N273billion.
The result is quite glaring in terms of health challenges in Nigeria. Whereas by 2013 life span in Japan was 82.6 years and in America it is 78 years, it is still 48 years in Nigeria.
The scenario sends the red signal when one considers the poor data in the health sector. For instance, 30 million Nigerians are hypertensive. 4 million suffer from diabetes. Pneumonia kills 130,000 Nigerians yearly. Malaria kills 4,500 pregnant women yearly in Nigeria alone. 400,000 Nigerians are infected by tuberculosis while 32 million Nigerians have river blindness.
The maternal mortality ratio is bad enough to shoot up the adrenalin. Whereas the MDG sets a ratio of 75 deaths only per every 100,000 pregnant women, Nigeria’s ratio is 948 per 100,000. As a result, 52,000 Nigerian women die annually from maternal mortality. Why should 145 women die during childbirth on a daily basis in Nigeria alone when only 6 out of 100,000 die annually in Canada and an average of 9 in every 100,000 yearly in the United States?
Nigerian children are the worst victims of our poor health delivery system. Malaria kills 300,000 Nigerian children annually. As if that is not enough for our children, Nigeria’s figure is the highest among the 3.5 million world children who die annually from diarrhea and other infections. Whereas the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aspires to 30 per 1000 live births or 64 per every 1,000 by the year 2015, Nigeria’s rate is 115 per 1,000. Under-5 mortality is worse as it stands at 210 per 1,000.
MURIC therefore advises FG to revisit its decision to sack 16,000 resident doctors. If we sack 16,000 doctors, it leaves only 9,000 doctors to attend to 170 million Nigerians. It is paradoxical coming at a time when the nation faces the Ebola saga. The decision to sack is therefore rash, reckless and ill-advised. The international community must be laughing its head off by now. We therefore appeal to FG to recall the doctors for the survival of 170 million Nigerians.
Flexing muscles will not solve the problem at a time like this. One does not cut off his head because of headache. What next after the sack? Is FG going to import doctors from the US or from Canada? Those ones will not want to risk their lives by coming to Nigeria when ebola is ravaging the population. Can we think of getting doctors from Liberia or Sierra Leone? This sack will not only complicate matters, it will also endanger the lives of millions of Nigerians.
Yet NMA must not abdicate its responsibility to lead the nation at this critical stage when we are all faced with the threat of annihilation a la Ebola. The medical profession belongs to the humanitarian arena. NMA should have been more responsive particularly with the outbreak of Ebola.
How can it be reasonable for firefighters to go on strike when whole cities are on fire? MURIC appeals to the NMA leadership to exhibit greater sense of sacrifice and patriotism. It should therefore call off the strike as soon as the FG recalls the sacked doctors. The agitation can start afresh when the Ebola emergency is lifted.
Finally, MURIC urges all Nigerian ex-heads of State, the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Union (NLC) and all other stakeholders to intervene in this crucial matter and save our country from imminent self-destruction. Both sides appear to have taken extreme measures in the conflict and compromise must emerge from either side in the interest of the common man.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)