Members of the Nigerian Medical Association on Friday in Abuja protested Thursday’s sack of resident doctors across the country by the Federal Government.
The government had announced the suspension of the Residency Training Programme in all its hospitals pending the conclusion of the ongoing appraisal of the challenges in the health sector.
But the doctors vowed to sustain their industrial action until government begins implementation of their 24-point demands and withdraw the circular which purportedly suspended the residency training programme.
Addressing journalists at the NMA secretariat, the association’s National President, Dr. Kayode Obembe, warned the affected doctors against collecting any sack letter or signing any register opened in any hospital.
Obembe, who claimed that stakeholders prevailed on him to withdraw his resignation as the NMA president, directed his colleagues nationwide to remain committed towards containing the Ebola disease.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, no doctor, no matter how hungry, should pick up any locum appointment with the government hospitals as directed by the circular.
“Any doctor who flouts this directive does so at his or her own peril.”
The NMA boss said that rather than abolishing the residency training programme, government should show more commitment towards improving the already poorly funded programme.
He said, “It is definite and clear that we approached government with 24-point demand and government approved all but that does not translate into the implementation and what had been said that 90 per cent of our demands had been met, is absolutely false.”
Meanwhile, the immediate past president of NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, has described the sacking of resident doctors as “ill-advised”.
In a statement made available to Saturday PUNCH on Friday, Enabulele called on President Goodluck Jonathan to reverse his decision.
Enabulele, who described the decision as capable of further worsening the challenges confronting the health sector, said, “The consequences of this decision are unimaginable. For one, the current poor health indices of Nigeria will further nose- dive, especially on account of the immense dearth of skilled medical manpower in Nigeria.
“Currently, Nigeria has an abysmal doctor-patient population ratio of 1: 6,300. With this action of the government, the ratio will further decline to about 1:15, 500. Similarly, the morbidity and mortality indices are sure to worsen on account of this shocking action of government.
“The deficit in health human resource caused by the intense brain drain that followed the reckless proscription of NMA and National Association of Resident Doctors by the Muhammadu Buhari regime in 1985 has yet to be addressed. This action of government will certainly widen the gap and further weaken Nigeria’s fragile health system.”
The Federal Government on Friday described the protest by the Nigerian Medical Association over the suspension of the Residency Training Programme nationwide, as embarrassing and an act of impunity.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Linus Awute, who stated this while addressing journalists in Abuja said the Federal Government’s action was in the best interest of the general health care delivery in the country.
He said, “It is an embarrassment and an act of impunity for a group of people who have suspended themselves for over a month despite receiving salaries, asking government to lift a formal suspension placed on them.”
He lamented that the strike embarked upon by the resident doctors had brought untoward hardship and death to many Nigerians.
He said, “Training is not going on again in hospitals since the resident doctors had withdrawn their services and even while on strike they receive their July salary.
“This country doesn’t need any form of distraction at the moment. There is a national emergency now and they should allow government to concentrate.”