NMA Faults MDCN Directive Stopping Doctors From Shunning Patients During Strike

Doctors under the umbrella of the Nigerian Medical Association, on Monday, said they will pay no attention to a directive by the Medical Dental Council of Nigeria warning practitioners against strike actions.

The NMA also threatened to withdraw its services across health institutions in the country if the Federal Government fails to implement the upward review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure by January 31, 2024.

The association’s President, Uche Ojinmah, stated this in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH in response to a directive by the MDCN warning doctors against shutting down healthcare services during strike actions.

The MDCN, the statutory body for the regulation, control, and discipline of medical practitioners and dental surgeons, had in a letter dated January 4, 2024, warned doctors not to send out patients when embarking on industrial actions.

The letter titled, “Conduct of Registered Medical Practitioners and Dental Surgeons in Hospitals during Strikes” was addressed to the Committee of Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres, and Specialised Hospitals and signed by the MDCN Registrar, Dr Tajudeen Sanusi.

According to the letter exclusively obtained, patients on admission must not be discharged merely because of a strike action.

The MDCN added that accidents and other emergency paediatrics units must remain open and manned by practitioners who had been scheduled on roasters based on the provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act Cap M8 LFN 2004.

The letter read, “The prevalent practice where hospital patients are precipitously discharged from or denied access to wards, emergency units, labour rooms, etc on account of strike actions is not acceptable.

“While conceding that registered practitioners are entitled to demand and obtain their rights under the labour laws of Nigeria, the council frowns at conduct that endangers the health-seeking public and could bring disrepute to the medical and dental professions.

“Pursuant to the above, we wish to call the attention of the Chief Medical Directors, Medical Directors, and heads of healthcare institutions who are registered practitioners, to the provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act Cap M8 LFN 2004, in sections1 (2c), 15(3a), 16(2) and Rules 45 and 50 of the Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria 2008 Edition, the import of which are:

“Patients on admission should not be discharged merely on account of strike action: Accidents and Emergency, Emergency Paediatrics Unit, Labour Ward/Room, Neonatal Care Unit, Intensive Care Unit, and other points in the hospital for providing emergency and critical care must remain open and manned by practitioners who had been scheduled on roasters to man them.

“Patients who had been given appointments before the strike must be attended to.”

But reacting, Ojinmah said, “First, let me make it clear that nobody will tell doctors how to defend themselves unless they have taken over the responsibility of defending Nigerian doctors.

“How will MDCN tell me not to fight for my salary? They didn’t even issue a letter to demand equal pay with senators or judges or what is being paid in America.

“MDCN is regulating medical practice, are they saying that the doctors should go hungry? or that a doctor should come to work without eating? The personnel they want at the emergency unit have not been paid salaries and you want a hungry man to run emergency services?”

He said doctors will do everything to defend themselves.

“Our doctors will do everything to defend themselves. MDCN is aware that there was an increment in our basic salaries since July 2023 and it hasn’t been implemented six months down the line without any reason. And if I decide to go on industrial action, someone will show me a document.

“If the council doesn’t want any disruption, they should write the current administration to pay what they promised which is not even enough,” he added.

Efforts to reach the President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Dele Abdullahi, proved abortive as he did not respond to calls, texts and whatsapp chats sent to his phone line.

The PUNCH reports that the Nigerian Medical Association recently gave the Federal Government till January 31, 2024, to meet its demands of an upward review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure. and arrears payment or risk industrial action in the health sector.

The association also urged the government to implement the newly approved accruement allowance with arrears from June 2022.

The PUNCH reports that workers in Nigeria’s civil service and health sector often stage protests to drive home salient points over maltreatment, poor welfare, unpaid salaries, or other packages.

The strike embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors during the tenure of former President Muhammadu Buhari resulted in a loss of 128 working days between 2016 and 2023.


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