At a time when some of his colleagues are trying to get out of the country, Abdulquadri Idrisu has made up his mind to stay and fight for a cause he believes in.
“The choice of staying in Nigeria is an individual one. My friends who left are not weaker or stronger than some of us here. It is only a matter of choice. We are all playing our parts to get Nigeria to where it needs to be,” Idrisu says and adds that he chose to play his part by “staying back to join others in demanding improvements in the health sector. It is possible and we can get it done.”
Idrisu works at Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafia, Nasarawa State and also doubles as the leader of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) in North-central Nigeria.
“My typical day has been busy because the industrial action must be well adhered to. Most people misconstrue strike action to be for resting but that should not be the case. We are working to ensure revitalisation of the health sector.”
For Idrisu, the solution to Nigeria’s health challenge is collective agitation by the patients and health workers for a better health system. This, he has been doing for 10 years and promised not to relent until Nigeria stops having brain drain.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said Nigeria is one of the three leading African countries where physicians leave for foreign jobs. This development has led to a drop in the quality of healthcare service due to the absence of skilled personnel.
According to Idrisu, leaders of the association continue to lead their members on strike amidst COVID-19 because they want a better Nigeria.
HumAngle earlier reported that this is the fourth strike action since the COVID-19 pandemic started, ceasing work since early Aug., 2021.
The doctors are demanding adequate payment of salaries to the house officers. They are seeking an upward review of the hazard allowance to 50% of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers, and payment of the outstanding Covid-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned tertiary institutions.
Also, they are calling for the abolishment of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by their members in all training institutions across the country.
“The Nigerian healthcare system is truncated by forces who do not want the best for us. They care not about our welfare and that’s why we are fighting for the necessary things we need. We have dependents to cater for,” he laments.
Idrisu describes practicing as a doctor in Nigeria as a struggle and survival of the fittest where authorities frustrate health workers’ efforts. But he remains optimistic that the fight for a better health sector can be won.
“As doctors, we are trained to care for all our patients and all of them matter to me,” he says. “I am not happy that they are being deceived. The government has refused to listen to the plight of the doctors and the health sector is decaying.
“There is a need for revitalisation and it is a sacrifice we need to make for our family, patients and country.”
Call for patients’ collaboration
This is not the best time for patients to feel bitter and pained but a time to join the doctors’ agitations, Idrisu says.
“We are sad and we want patients to join us in demand for good welfare so that service can resume. They should join us to revitalise the sector as health care for every Nigerian is critical. Health does not go on break and that’s why government presence is needed. Every life is important.”
Idrisu noted that with or without salaries, medical doctors would not relent, saying “the government cannot blackmail us by not paying our salaries. All doctors should be encouraged and not relent. Success will be ours.”
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