Nigerian public hospital doctors began a five-day strike on Wednesday to protest poor working conditions, resulting in the closure of healthcare services for many patients. The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) initiated the strike due to the government’s reluctance to increase salaries and pay arrears owed to its members as well as to allocate more funding to hospitals, according to Dr. Innocent Orji, the NARD’s president.
Medical residents constitute the majority of healthcare personnel in Nigerian government hospitals, though the strike does not affect specialist doctors or nurses. Insufficient funding for the public health sector has resulted in such work stoppages for many years, even though Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.
The country’s elite, including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who frequently travels to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, can avail of medical services abroad that are unavailable to most Nigerians who use government hospitals. Critics point out the significant gap between hospitals that provide care to the majority of Nigerians and those that provide care abroad.
The doctors had threatened to strike in April, but the government failed to respond positively to their demands. Orji stated, “The government has not called us to the negotiation table. Instead, what we have been getting is threats upon threats.” Orji also mentioned that if dialogue with the government does not improve, the strike could be extended.