COVID-19: Striking doctors are frustrated, health minister admits

• Says FG can't dictate to states

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday, admitted that the striking doctors under the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have some things they are really frustrated about.

Ehanire, who said he had a frank discussion with the young doctors in his office on Thursday morning over their ongoing strike, however, informed them that the Federal Government cannot dictate to states on certain issues and complaints brought before him about certain state governments.

He also said that the doctors have the erroneous belief that the Federal Government could dictate what goes on in other states, adding that the government at the centre can only put in words and advise the state governors to attend to issues affecting the doctors.

The minister, who was speaking at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF), on Thursday said the NARD though, made many observations but he had to tell them that they work within a system where things follow certain processes.

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He pleaded with the doctors to go back to their duty as assigned and emphasised that the COVID-19 period is not a good time to withdraw service because people’s lives can be at risk.

According to the minister: “I had meeting with the residents doctors this morning in my office, we had a real frank discussion. It seems that there are some things they are frustrated about. And many of the things they reported, and what I have to make clear to them is that we work within a system where things follow certain processes and they have to listen very clearly to me.

“I think we have a very good rapport, they spoke and we spoke and to understand that we work within certain system and there are many of those observations they made which can be remedied easily like the one on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which as a matter of fact has been distributed widely in two places. First of all to state governments and secondly to every tertiary hospital in all the states.”

Ehanire said: “If I hear now that there is shortage in FCT, I will be surprised because FCT is the closest to the warehouse. We have warehouses in Lagos and we have warehouses in Abuja and other places. So, I am not sure that the information about the PPE is correct because I have personally prioritise the issue of PPE

“I also pleaded for rational use because we import most or all of these and if you use them anyhow, we can easily run out. But nevertheless, we made sure it is available in all the places where it is supposed to be used. There are countries in the world where there was shortage, in sort, there was global shortage of everything.”

He also pointed out that a well-documented report he received showed that the PPE is well distributed.

The minister said: “We at the centre here are doing everything to facilitate the distribution of PPE, maybe those at the state were not doing it. The young doctors also have some erroneous belief that we could from here dictate what goes on in other states.

“There are certain complaints they have, not to the Federal Government, not to the Ministry of Heath but with certain states, which we say that we can only put in a good word but we can’t deal with the problem within the states and that the state problem is with the state.”

He, however, added, “we will put in a word, we assured them of that but they shouldn’t have the impression that we can solve the problems that occurred in specific states. We do have a means of advocacy to request and also worry some governors to attend to certain issues regarding doctors.

“We also explained that this COVID period is not a good time to withdraw service because people’s lives can be at risk, maybe it is the life of someone you know, maybe it is the life of your relative. They appear to understand that very well and I believe that they will do what is right and go back to their duty as assigned.”


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