Strike: Jonathan Sacks 16,000 Resident Doctors

The Federal Government on Wednesday sacked all resident doctors in the country.

In a press release by the Deputy Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Isiaka Yusuf, the Federal Government said it had to do so after exploring all avenues to end the strike, which it said had compounded the health crisis in the country.

It would be recalled that the Nigeria Medical Association had directed its members natiuonwide to go on strike on July 1. The National Association of Resident Doctors, an affiliate of the NMA, has put its numerical strentgh at about 16,000.

“The situation has been compounded by the recent importation of the Ebola Virus Disease into Nigeria on July 20, 2014. Following the Presidential declaration of a National Public Health Emergency on Ebola Disease, which has united the entire country in the efforts to contain the disease, it is quite regrettable that the people who should take leadership role in the fight against the Ebola disease are now the most unsupportive,’” the statement said.

The resident doctors were unceremoniously relieved of their jobs after the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, on Wednesday, issued a directive terminating the residency training programme for doctors in the country until further notice.

The PUNCH learnt that the development, however, was without prejudice to the employment of locum doctors on six months renewable contract tied to excellent performance.

In a circular by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. L.N. Awute, to all Chief Medical Directors and medical directors in public hospitals across the country, said the development was “for the purposes of appraising the challenges in the health sector’.

“The honourable minister has directed that you issue letters of termination of Residency Training appointment to the affected Resident Doctors in your hospital immediately,’’ Awute said.

In another copy attached to the letter, the ministry also directed the CMDs to pay “salaries and allowances for one month in lieu of notice.”

“You are required to surrender all hospital property in your possession, including any staff identity card,” the statement added in the instruction to the doctors affected by the development.

The National Association of Resident Doctors, has however, described the directive as unfortunate.

In a telephone interview with our correspondent, the NARD president, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Moroof Abdulsalam said the development would be resisted. Abdulsalam who said he was not sure of the exact number of doctors affected, however disclosed that there are over 60 centres in Nigeria where residency training programmes are undertaken. According to him there are about 200 resident doctors in each of the centre.

“It came as a shock to us. As we speak, the national officers of the Nigeria Medical Association and the NARD are meeting. We are waiting for further directive. We have told our members to remain calm in the face of this provocation. We all know that resident doctors are the engine rooms of the health sector especially in this country where we have a shortage of specialists. That anyone would even moot the idea is unimaginable. The Lagos State Government did it two years ago and we all know what happened. We will resist this,” he said.

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