President, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Awka, Anambra State, Dr. Obinna Aniagboso, has said that no fewer than 20 members of the association died of COVID-19 since its outbreak in Nigeria.
Aniagboso in an interview with reporters, pointed out the need for government to pay doctors’ entitlements, including Life Insurance and Death-in-Service Allowance, to their dependants, “in case of any death in active service from virulent viruses, arising from the risk they take attending to patients, including of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.”
Accusing the Federal Government of having little regard for the health of Nigerians, he revealed that Nigerian doctors were the least paid all over the world.
“It is quite unfortunate that the Federal Government allowed us to get to this point (strike) in time of COVID-19, which has adversely affected professionals in the medical and other sectors,” he lamented.
The NARD leader pointed out that the Federal Government did not appreciate the risk and sacrifice of resident doctors, as it kept foot-dragging to meet their demands.
Defending the resort to industrial action to press home their demands, he said: “The Federal Government has proved to us once again that if you don’t go on strike to seek implementation of improved conditions of service, nothing works; it is only striking that works.”
While bemoaning the yawning gap in the doctor/patient ratio, he said the country would be worse off if it continued to lose health professionals to the United Kingdom and Oman.
According to him, the Federal Government agreed to pay resident doctors Inducement Hazard Allowance from April to June 2020, in the first instance, to be followed with a subsequent review of the Old Hazard Allowance of N5,000 permanently.
But the government only paid for the months of April and May, he noted.
“We wanted to go on strike two weeks ago, of which the government did not take advantage to remedy the situation.
“I think it is the most unconscionable. Because of our patriotic disposition, we restrained ourselves to take any action that would affect our patients and destabilise the state. We will not take government’s cruelty and insensitivity any longer,” he said.
While commending Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano for buying and donating Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to traditional rulers in the state, he argued that the gesture put a lie to the claim of no money to pay doctors in the state.
“If government is serious about retaining the doctors and stemming the tide of massive brain drain, these demands are non-negotiable. Once they continue to dilly-dally, we will be left with no option than to down tools.
“I emphatically condemn the poor attitude of the state government to resident doctors and other health professionals. It is very shameful and unacceptable that the state’s health professionals receive the lowest COVID-19 Hazard Allowance of N3,500 each per month.”