A personalized guide for Minister Ingige on how to eliminate doctor strikes
By: Faridat Musa
As you know, Honourable Minister, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on an industrial strike action weeks ago after several months of prior notice. The conditions put forward by the aggrieved doctors were quite fair and reasonable. Prompt payment of upwardly revised salary and allowances, better facilities and infrastructure, employment of more doctors; basic demands, nothing extraordinary—by now, every union should know better than to do otherwise.
NARD strike or threat to strike is frequent as it is certain. ASUU can only dream of matching up. Even though the strike has been suspended, we can bet on these doctors to withhold their services again because they clearly did not inherit the silence of their predecessors. With bills to pay, mouths to feed, and Toyota Corollas to purchase, it seems passion and love for humanity are simply not enough.
As lives are at grave risk and medical education is halted whenever these strikes occur, it is necessary to take all possible steps to avoid them. If not, every strike call-off marks the countdown to the next. If I may proceed, here are some of my recommendations;
Step 1: Pay the doctors
Every now and then, you remind us that Nigerian doctors are treated better than their counterparts in the diaspora, especially those in Canada, Australia, and the UK. You claim our hospitals are state-of-the-art. We may not frequent foreign hospitals as much as you but we know enough to disagree. While specialist doctors in training in the UK receive £35,000 per annum, resident doctors here have to plead to be paid $5,000-$6,000 and other meager allowances. I do not want to imply that you are a liar but you hardly tell the truth. Pay the doctors and promptly so.
Step 2: Please, pay the doctors
Passion doesn’t pay bills, never has, and never will. This wishful expectation of passion and love for humanity is tired and begging to be left alone. There may be some level of satisfaction that comes from working solely for the sake of humanity, but it surely isn’t monetary. If not, what is the conversion rate? Is it tax-free and inflation-adjusted? And sir, how much passion pays for your foreign medical visits? Medical tourism?
While I await your answers, endeavor to pay them real money. As you do so, resist the urge to reach into their accounts to take back (read: steal) their allowances like you did with the residency training fund.
Step 3: Upgrade the hospitals
You have reiterated on separate occasions that our hospitals are highly equipped to manage come-what-may conditions which is another brazen lie. Pardon me, another deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Again, not your fault. Out of sight is out of mind; out of mind is out of use; and out of use is out of suffered experience. For your information, an average gym in the UK has a functioning defibrillator whereas teaching hospitals here in Nigeria lack even an obsolete one.
Months ago, a surgeon collapsed on duty and couldn’t be resuscitated because the nearest defibrillator was in the Government House. World-class doctors like ours deserve to practice in an environment that is not actively trying to kill them and their patients.
Step 4: Increase hazard allowance sufficiently
Being a doctor means one is exposed to a long list of life-altering diseases. You, of all people, should understand this; the feeling of mistakenly piercing yourself with sharps used on HIV or Hepatitis B patients and your whole existence flashing before your eyes. And for what? ₦5,000 compensation? $9.5? In case you too are unaware, the hazard allowance for doctors is 5000 monthly. There are faster and trusted ways to kill people you don’t regard—just carry gun.
Step 5: Reduce their jobs to measuring temperature officially
If the increment cannot be implemented, reduce the volume and risks of their jobs.
I have to admit this wasn’t my idea. Your colleague and Minister for Health inspired it when he questioned the need for hazard allowance because he believes all doctors did to combat COVID-19 was “measure temperature.” Since this is his perceived and unofficial assumption of medical practice, he might as well file the paperwork and make it official.
In the end, everyone wins; less hazard allowance from the government, fewer risks taken by doctors.
Step 6: Let the ‘surplus doctors’ join the workforce
The best time to recruit those “surplus doctors” you swear we have is now. We are no longer interested in asking why you insist Nigeria has an excess of medical doctors, even though the statistics are clear; each doctor is overwhelmed with nearly 5,000 patients. The next best time to locate those extra hands—that only you can see—is before the NARD issues another strike notice. As someone whose education suffers, I humbly beg that you ensure these strikes become a thing of the past.
Step 7: Return to the discipline
Not many people are informed of your medical background, you would be reminding them by returning to the fold. For one, the Medical and Dental Council has use for an extra ₦40,000 in licensing fees and developmental levy.
Secondly, seeing as you undermine the efforts of doctors, you should practice in any public hospital of your choice. When you resume back, you can finally sack all the doctors as you threatened during the just suspended strike. After all, too many hands spoil the broth. On the positive side, you will be giving them time to pass foreign licensing exams and increase our remittance funnel.
In an unlikely event that you, an incredibly agile Nigerian leader, feel overburdened, you can call on our supreme leader and dictator-in-chief for assistance. He is hardly experienced at anything—except illegal use of brutal force—but he will learn on the job like he does with the country and excel at it. You two will make a formidable team, the type to revolutionize our healthcare system.
Faridat Musa is a medical student and tech enthusiast who spends time Googling her many interests and plotting her escape from Nigeria. Find her @faireedah on Twitter.