Nigerian medical doctors, who are currently on strike, have accused the Federal Government of plotting to draft soldiers to hospitals, privatize government-owned hospitals, and proscribe the Nigerian Medical Association. However, the Federal Government has denied the allegation.
The doctors, who have been on a nationwide strike for about a month, also said the government was planning to use paramedical personnel to do the work of medical doctors.
On Monday, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) decried the ostensible plan by the government to employ extraordinary measures in order to break the strike and force the doctors back to work. MDCAN warned of grave effects on the troubled health sector should the government implement its alleged plan.
In a statement released in Abuja yesterday, MDCAN’s leader, Dr. Steven Oluwole, claimed that his group was aware of the government’s plan to use extreme measures to break the back of the striking doctors. According to him, “unnamed government officials have leaked to us that the government is considering [the] proscription of the NMA.”
He added: “In the event that the Federal Government tows this course of action, the military will be deployed to guard the medical institutions with military and paramilitary medical professionals rendering services in the mean time.
"All public health institutions will be privatized. Then the ‘no work no pay’ principle will be enforced, doctors who are interested will be protected to resume duties.”
Dr. Oluwole described that the government’s alleged plans as worrisome and could further jeopardize Nigeria’s multi-tier health services. He accused the government of playing politics with the issue of health. “Before the NMA declared the strike, the MDCAN implored [the] government to look professionally, but not politically at all the issues. Unfortunately there is little evidence that such had been done,” he said.
In his statement, Dr. Oluwole raised a series of questions: "Are there no laws that established the tertiary health institutions? Will privatization of Teaching Hospitals fulfill the objectives for which they were established? Private hospitals are for profit rather than for training and research. Will they serve the primary functions as defined in the Acts that established the hospitals?
"Will the Ministry of Health find suitable replacement for all specialties in Teaching Hospitals, from unemployed doctors and retired doctors? Will the Ministry of Health reconstitute the entire health system even if it is intended that foreign doctors will be imported?”
The MDCAN warned that the MDCAN members would not capitulate to any machinations of the government.
Meanwhile Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr.Onyewuchi Chukwu, has denied that the government was planning to proscribe the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
The minister’s spokesman, Mr. Dan Nwomeh, said the government had no agenda to proscribe the association. Instead, he stated that the government was working hard to achieve an amicable resolution of the issues that led to the strike. He added that the government had met a significant part of its commitments to the members of theNMA. He called on the doctors to call off their strike in the interest of Nigerians.