By George Samuel
The Federal Government on Tuesday threatened to sack resident doctors who fail to return to work.
The government directed medical directors across the country to open registers for workers who show up for work as from 7 a.m tomorrow.
National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), on Monday, declared a nationwide strike, following alleged government failure to meet its demands.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, summoned the striking doctors to a meeting on Tuesday to resolve the issues raised by the doctors.
The meeting, which started at 1 p.m, lasted till 7:40 p.m.
Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire said his ministry would issue a directive to medical directors across the country to record doctors who report for work and those who fail to do so
He decried the decision of the resident doctors to down tools when the world is struggling to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister said Nigeria was the first country where doctors went on strike in the midst of the current global pandemic.
To the striking doctors, Ehanire said: “One day you will be sitting where we are sitting; you will be going through the same thing we are going through. It is a circle of life.
“In other countries, we have seen retired doctors and workers come out of retirement. Nigeria is the first country in the world where health workers went on strike during a pandemic.
“The resident doctors have told us their demands before calling off the strike. Certain steps need to be taken. This evening (yesterday), the Ministry of Health will issue a directive to all medical directors to open a register by 7 a.m and record all those who come to work and those who fail to report to come to work.”
Ngige said he hoped the doctors would show sympathy to the plight of the nation and call off their strike.
“It is our wishes that after this meeting, NARD will talk to its affiliate branches and call off this industrial action.
“I don’t want to go into the integrity of the industrial action, whether you’re essential services or not, whether you are supposed to go on strike or not. I will only commend you and say go and read your Labour Act and also the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regulations on essential services workers of which I know you are one.”
NARD President Dr. Aliyu Sokomba insisted that the strike would only be called off when the government comes up with tangible outcome.
Doctors in many states on Tuesday complied with the NARD directive for the strike to continue.
Across the states, many health workers stayed away from work yesterday in compliance with the NARD directive.
They were not available to discharge their duties at the National Hospital in Abuja, save for those attending to COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s isolation centre.
But it was learnt that the doctors in the isolation centre may soon down tools too if the strike persists.
NARD has given them two weeks to join other members.
Speaking with The Nigeria Daily yesterday in Abuja, the National Hospital Abuja spokesman Dr. Adetayo Haastrup said: “There is no way the strike by the resident doctors will not affect effective discharge of work in any hospital. But for us in National Hospital, the consultants, house officers, nurses and all other sections are working, except the resident doctors. The directive is from their national body.
“The resident doctors in our isolation centre are working, but have been given two weeks to function. So, they are still attending to COVID-19 patients…”
Across the states, the resident doctors complied with the directive of their national body to join the strike.
Our correspondents across the country report that many resident doctors did not report for work yesterday, leading to abandoned patients.