Africa

Nigerian doctors strike, but virus facilities exempt

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A health official works in the laboratory extraction room of the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Irrua, Edo State, midwest Nigeria,

  • Nigerian doctors in state-run hospitals went on strike over complaints on welfare and inadequate protective equipment.
  • Medics treating coronavirus patients would keep working.
  • NARD had threatened the strike over the “grossly inadequate” provision of protective equipment and calls for hazard pay.

Nigerian doctors in state-run hospitals went on strike on Monday over complaints on welfare and inadequate protective equipment, but said medics treating coronavirus patients would keep working.

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Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation of 200 million inhabitants, has recorded 16 085 cases and 420 deaths since the first index case of the virus in February.

More than 800 health workers have been infected by the virus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

“A decision to commence on a total indefinite strike with exemption only for Covid-19 treatment centres has been taken,” the National Association of Resident Doctors, which represents some 40% of Nigeria’s doctors, said in a tweet.

“This is with effect from 12:00 am Monday 15/06/2020.”

Association president Aliyu Sokomba told AFP that doctors treating virus cases were not downing tools because medics did not want to “deprive Covid-19 patients care”.

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But he warned that the exempted doctors would be forced to join the action if the government refuses to meet its demands within two weeks.

“We believe that in two weeks, we should be able to conclude on that. But if they continue to demonstrate their insincerity, we may have no choice than to co-opt the doctors we have exempted to join the strike.”

The organisation had threatened the strike over a raft of issues, including the “grossly inadequate” provision of protective equipment and calls for hazard pay for those working on the virus.

Other demands focused on improving general welfare and protesting sackings or pay cuts for doctors in two regions.

Strikes by medics are common in Nigeria, where the health sector has been underfunded for years.

The authorities fear that any reduction in capacity could severely hamper its ability to tackle the pandemic as the number of cases continues to rise.

The main nationwide doctors union briefly staged a warning strike in commercial hub Lagos over police harassment of its members.

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