The Nigerian Doctor (5): State Doctors Overwhelmed As NARD Strike Persists

As resident doctors continue to strike, patients turn to state hospitals for treatment and this is putting more pressure on doctors there who might also join the action leading to total collapse of the system.

Being a family physician, Sunday Alao* (not real name) has adjusted his schedules to accommodate more patients since the commencement of the strike action by the National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD) in Nigeria on Aug. 2, 2021

He believes that while the strike action is for a good cause, the pressure of attending to patients has shifted to the state hospitals since “not all these patients can afford to go to a private hospital or travel out of the country for treatment.”

Alao, who works at the General Hospital Odeda – Ogun State Southwest Nigeria, said, “Either from the federal hospitals or secondary care centre, we get calls and referrals but we tell them that there is nothing we can do about it.”

“Sometimes, when we get there and see the overwhelming situation, we cannot help it. We know it is not palatable to them too but there is nothing we can do at this time. The state hospitals that we have around are being overwhelmed, the hospital beds are being over flooded everyday.

“The pressure we are now having is so much, just to take care of those patients who are supposed to be going to the federal medical center’s.”

The hard decision

For Alao, the resident doctors embarking on a strike would have a negative effect on the healthcare system. “A lot of patients who are supposed to see doctors at the center’s where these strikes are going on in the hospitals are being denied. This would, in turn, complicate their sickness or lead to their death because some of them might not afford to visit private hospitals and get treatment.”

“Any time doctors go on strike, it is always a very hard decision to take because we know what it means; both to the general populace and the mind of the doctors, because psychologically we will be down that we are not doing what we are supposed to do for this patient,” he said.

Odeda Healthcare Centre ward. Photo: Olumide Osoba/Twitter.

Alao added that it is not professional for doctors to abandon their patients, however certain needs; good remuneration, modern equipment, comfortable environment to work, must be put in place to aid their work.

“The environment where we work, the equipment we work with and others, if they had been doing something over the years, it would not build up to this. You can see that over the years, nothing has been done. Funds are being disbursed every year and there is nothing to show for it,” he said.

Exhaustion in other hospitals

“You have to see more patients at work everyday. If you know that you have to close by 6 p.m. on a regular day, you cannot because you have to attend to all your patients before you leave,” Alao explained.

However, this adjustment is scheduled to accommodate more patients, and would also affect the effectiveness of the doctor.

“You have to realise that even as doctors, we have our own stress limits. I am supposed to see a patient as a family physician for about 30 minutes, which means for eight hours you are supposed to see about 16 patients but now you have to rush through whatever you want to do without the quality time. There is no doctor available to share the patient with.”

“What we do before is to ask questions, examine them, do all necessary tests and give them better treatments but now you have a lot of people, you might not be able to discharge effectively.”

Collapsing the health system

Alao while referencing the 21-day ultimatum issued by the Nigerian Medical Association to the federal government to resolve the issues with the resident doctors, he said the general doctors’ association might withdraw all workers if their demands are not  met.

A group of protesting doctors. Photo: Premium Times.

“If by the 18th of this month, the government has not done anything, most likely, we will be in Abuja and call all doctors out on strike to support NARD. We all have our own issues too, even at the state level and we do not want to collapse.”

“But in a case like this, we might be left with no choice than to collapse the whole system. We are in full support because what we are asking of the government is legitimate. There might not be going back on the NMA and medical associations joining the strike,” he said.

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