Thousands of patients in state-run hospitals around the country have been left unattended since doctors embarked on an indefinite strike for better wages on April 1.
It is feared that the strike by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors, a trade union that represents about 40% of doctors, could severely hamper the country’s ability to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of cases continues to rise.
The doctors want improved wages and allowances. Their demands include the settlement of salary arrears, an upward review of the 5,000 naira hazard allowance, and payment of death-in-service insurance for all health workers who died from COVID-19 while on duty.
More than 800 health workers had been infected by the virus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Patients at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital said they had been left unattended and they feared the strike would cause them more pain and suffering.
Many said they did not have enough money to feed themselves let alone pay for treatment at private hospitals.
Baba Ali, a patient at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, said he was appalled by the strike. “We need doctors more than ever before. Who will look after the sick during the strike? People are always getting sick. The government needs to do something to stop the strike.”
Halima Babagana, a patient at the State Specialist Hospital in Maiduguri, told RNI reporter Nana Hadiza Mustapha that there were numerous sick people in the city. “Almost everyone is sick in one way or another and we all need a doctor to tell us what is wrong and to treat us. They cannot just ignore our suffering. We need medical attention.”
Hauwa Musa, a patient who went to see her doctor at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, said there were no doctors on duty. She said the federal government needed to negotiate with resident doctors and doctors had to be patient with the government and return to work to continue helping people.
“If the strike goes on for too much longer, many people are going to suffer and some will die. As it is, there are not enough doctors in Nigeria’s states and patients are suffering because of that. It is going to be even worse if the strike continues,” she said.
Abdullahi Bukar, a resident of Maiduguri, said the strike would not affect just the sick, it would affect everyone. “Many people have relatives and friends in hospital and they must be very worried about them. And if people get sick during the strike, who will treat them? The government must do something to stop it.”
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) apologised to Nigerians, saying the strike was adding to the challenges faced by the healthcare system in the country.
Dr Enema Amodu, chairman of the NMA, Federal Capital Territory, pleaded with the federal government to respond to the needs of health workers in the country.
Speaking at news conference on Sunday, Amodu urged the government to take the matter seriously and address the doctors’ grievances urgently.