SOCIALIST Labour has expressed its full support and solidarity for the National Association Resident Doctors (NARD) which embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike Monday 2nd 2021.
In a statement signed by Comrade Biodun Olamosu, National Secretary, Socialist Labour said government is spending less on public health than most countries in the world or in Africa, a situation which is responsible for poor remuneration of medical doctors in Nigeria compared to most countries in Africa.
Comrade Olamosu also argued that low public expenditure on public health results in high cost of medical treatment by individuals in Nigeria.
NARD, Socialist Labour said, embarked on the indefinite strike due to poor working conditions, irregular payments of salaries and a hazard allowance not reviewed since 1991, as well as a protest against government failure to pay life insurance to families of doctors who died from Covid-19.
Only one family, out of 19 doctors who died of Covid-19, is believed to have been paid life insurance.
Socialist Labour said contrary to Abuja Declaration of 2001 where African governments pledged to spend at least 15% of their national budgets on health, Nigeria’s annual health budget continues to decline year in, year out.
“…Federal Health Budget for 2021 provides a recurrent health budget of only N380billion and a capital budget of N132bn. In addition, the budget for the Basic Health Care Fund is proposed to be N35 billion. This gives a total health budget of N547 billion. This is only a 3.6% increase on 2021 (much less than inflation of around 18%) and only 4.2% of the total budget. In real terms the Buhari Government has reduced the amount it spends on health each year over the last six years.
“The South African Government spends five times per person on health than the Nigerian Government. As a percentage of GDP, Nigeria spends not much more than a quarter of the average level for sub-Saharan Africa. On a per capita basis, Nigeria spends not much more than a third of the average level for sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank Database 2016/7). The spending per person has been falling over at least the last five years (World Bank Pulse, April 2020). So 80% of spending on health in Nigeria is direct from our pockets.
“As a result, Nigeria has worse health outcomes than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of new-born deaths in Africa, with a neonatal mortality rate of 37 per 1000 live births which comes to approximately 250,000 deaths every year. At least one in eight children dies before their fifth birthday, making the under-five mortality in Nigeria one of the highest in the world. One of the associated causes of death is the poor nutrition conditions of children in Nigeria (BudgIT 2018 budget),” the statement said.
Lowest starting salaries for doctors in Africa
“Nigeria also has one of the lowest starting salaries for doctors in Africa. This is around $320 a month in Nigeria compared to starting monthly salaries of $3,250 in Britain; $5,500 in USA; and $3,400 in South Africa,” Socialist Labour pointed out, asking rhetorically: “Is it any wonder that half of Nigerian doctors are now working abroad?”
“Nigeria has about 72,000 registered doctors but only 35,000 practice in the country. Nigeria needs 303,333 medical doctors at present, and at least 10,605 new ones yearly, to meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) recommendation on the doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:600. But only 3,000 to 3,500 doctors graduate from medical schools in Nigeria each year.
“In addition, doctors and other health workers receive a miserable Covid-19 hazard allowance of only N5,000. This has not been increased since 1991. Doctors are reportedly only asking for a 50% increase in this allowance.
“These are the reasons that the registered doctors, members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) started an indefinite national strike from Monday 2nd August. They previously held a strike for nine days from Thursday 1st April and yet the Government failed to address their legitimate demands.
“The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) both issued warning notices of their strike action. JOHESU then shelved its action, just before it was about to start, as they were invited to negotiations by the Ministry of Labour.
“The doctors of NARD are correct to take strike action. This is the only language this Government understands. The doctors are striking to improve our health service and deserve our full support and solidarity. The doctors should continue their strike until their full demands are implemented. JOHESU should immediately join this strike for the health of all their members and the wider public,” Socialist Labour pleaded.