Resident Doctors in Nigeria on Monday grounded activities in public health institutions as they embark on an indefinite strike to protest low pay and inadequate facilities many doctors say they are working in.
The strike comes as COVID-19 cases numbers surge in the country as July saw the nation’s highest case numbers since March, sparking fears of a third wave, reports Bloomberg.
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which called for the strike, represents more than 90 per cent of doctors in Nigeria’s teaching hospitals.
Resident doctors are pivotal to frontline care in Nigeria, as many work in hospital emergency wards, reports Reuters.
The NARD called the strike over unpaid salaries, COVID-19 hazard allowances, and insurance benefits to families of doctors who died of coronavirus saying some of its members are owed as much as 19 months’ worth of salary pay by state governments, and that some hospitals have failed to give doctors the hazard stipend promised to those helping fight the virus.
The families of 19 doctors who have died of the virus have not received benefits from the government, Jerry Isogun, the general secretary of NARD, told Bloomberg.
NARD president Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi also decried the state of Nigeria’s underfunded poorly equipped state-run hospitals, dubbing them “deplorable,” in an interview with AFP and Al Jazeera.
The federal government in response called the strike “hasty” and “appealed for restraint from NARD doctors,” per Reuters.
“The nationwide strike started at 8am. It’s an indefinite strike,” NARD president Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi told the AFP news agency and Al Jazeera. “There will be no exemption for doctors handling COVID-19 cases.”
“We appeal to Nigerians to bear with us. Doctors and their families are suffering,” Okhuaihesuyi added. “We can no longer pay our bills because of [the] government’s insensitivity and neglect of our welfare.”