Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the 14th Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has wooed Nigerian doctors in South Africa, asking them to come home and fix Africa’s most populous country.
Addressing the doctors over the weekend in Johannesburg, Sanusi commended the doctors for representing Nigeria well in their host country South Africa.
He also encouraged the Nigerians in the diaspora to contribute their quota in building a better Nigeria, saying they have their respective duties to play.
“We all have a duty to see what we can do. This country needs us now more than ever before. When we have a challenge, when we have a crisis, it is not the time to run away,” he said.
“When your house is on fire, you don’t run away. You look for the fire brigade to come and kill the fire and we are the fire brigade. We need to go back and fix our country.
“We need to get our country to that level where people and doctors are coming to work in Nigeria, where academics are coming to teach in Nigerian universities, not looking out to other parts of the world.”
The emir admitted that there is a lot of work to be done on Nigeria’s economy, politics, and governance among others.
He charged all Nigerians to join hands in building a better country, adding that no one will fix the country for them.
Also speaking, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Muhammad Manta, assured Sanusi of the efforts of Nigerian doctors in South Africa to contribute back home.
Manta pleaded for the continued intercession of other Nigerian leaders to lead the people on the right track in choosing leaders that will serve Nigerians better.
“We need to have people who really think about service, not how to destroy society. We do pray also that with the kind prayers of eminent Nigerians as well as religious leaders, they will take it upon themselves also to disseminate messages to us to choose the right leaders,” he said.
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can apply to have their YouTube channels certified, the video-sharing platform said Thursday, in a push to limit misinformation on the site.
The change will allow viewers to more easily access videos containing “high-quality health information,” YouTube said.
“This is a big step towards helping people more easily find and connect with content that comes from the extraordinary community of healthcare professionals on YouTube,” it added.
In addition to doctors and nurses, mental health professionals and healthcare information providers may also apply for the YouTube verification that allows their videos to be spotted easily by users.
“This new step will allow us to expand to include high quality information from a wider group of healthcare channels,” the company said.
Some 90 percent of Americans use social media to search for health information, according to the National Academy of Medicine.
YouTube faced criticism last year for hosting videos that criticized Covid-19 vaccines or contradicted health guidance from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response, in September 2021, it banned misleading and inaccurate content about vaccines.
It also launched a limited program that allowed videos by public health departments, hospitals and governments, among other entities, to have labels letting users know they are authoritative.
It is that program that is now being broadened.
To access the program, healthcare professionals must offer proof of their professional licenses, follow best practices for sharing science-based health information and have a channel in good standing on YouTube, the company said.
YouTube, headquartered in San Bruno, California, has a reach of some two billion monthly active users.
The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has urged the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation for the health sector from the subsisting 5% in the 2022 budget to a figure closer to 15% as recommended at the 2001 Abuja declaration for health financing in Africa.
The doctors made the appeal in a communique issued on Sunday following their National Executive Council (NEC) meeting tagged “ABUJA 2022” with the theme, “Changing Faces and Phases of COVID-19: Problems and Prospects.”
This, according to them, will not only help to improve their welfare but will also contribute to reducing the ‘brain drain’ said to be experienced by health workers in the country.
“We urge the Federal Government to take steps towards curtailing medical brain drain. The Federal Government should look towards increasing the budgetary allocation of the health sector from the subsisting 5% in the 2022 budget to a figure closer to 15% as recommended at the 2001 Abuja declaration for health financing in Africa.
“This will enable more employment in the sector, improved welfare and service conditions for health workers, and also an upgrade of health facilities and equipment in our institutions across the country,” the communique read in part.
The NEC also noted that the Federal Government has paid the withheld August and September 2021 salaries to its members, and also paid the 2021 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF).
It, however, noted that some members were yet to receive payment of their omitted 2020 MRTF.
The group, therefore, urged the Federal Government to expedite action on the payment of omitted 2020 MRTF to members before the 2021 fiscal year runs out in March 2022.
They thanked Governors of Delta, Benue and Lagos States for “blazing the trail in the adoption/domestication of the 2017 Medical Residency Training Act (MRTA) and also payment of Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) to resident doctors in their states.” while calling on other states to emulate same.
States said to still be oweing arrears of salaries and allowances include: Abia (23 months), Imo (10 months), Ondo (6 months), and Ekiti (3 months).
“This is becoming inhuman and embarrassing”, the communique read.
“We also appeal to the Governors of Delta (1 month) and Gombe (2 months) states to release the withheld salaries of our members in the respective states, so as to alleviate their sufferings,” NARD added.
According to the MDCAN president, several of the recent policies of the government appear to target medical professionals and their practice in Nigeria.
“The level of insecurity in the country has remained worrisome, making it nearly impossible to safely use certain road routes across the country,” he stated. “This is despite efforts being made by the government to address the challenges.
“The persistent attack on Medical and Dental Postgraduate Medical Fellowship and discrimination against our members have also continued unabated.
“These young people will not leave if the economy is good; the older ones will not leave if there are facilities to train with. They will not leave if their pay is reasonable, and most importantly they will not leave if they are gainfully employed.”
Makanjuola also criticised the Federal Government’s circular on the hazard allowance for medical personnel, saying the amount offered was highly discouraging.
He stated that the circular was not in line with the earlier agreement reached during negotiation with representatives of various associations under the health sector.
The MDCAN president stressed that the recently reviewed hazard allowances by the government were inadequate to address the multiple risks faced by an average health worker in the country.
On the way forward, he advised the government to improve the conditions of service of those still in the system to prevent a further brain drain.
“Government as a matter of urgency should put policies in place to arrest the mass exodus of highly skilled medical and dental consultants into developed countries.
“Such policies must domesticate the pull factors while minimising the push factors that encourage emigration of healthcare professionals,” said Makanjuola.
Sudanese doctors protested Sunday against violent attacks by security forces targeting medical personnel during pro-democracy rallies following last year’s military coup.
“During every protest they fire tear gas inside the hospital where I work,” one doctor, Houda Ahmad, said at the rally in Khartoum.
“They even attack us inside the intensive care unit,” she added at the rally, where medical personnel carried pictures of colleagues they said had been killed.
The demonstration was the latest in the crisis-hit north-east African country, where protesters in the north also blockaded roads to vent their anger against an electricity price hike announced last week, and that has since been frozen.
Sudan’s October 25 coup led by military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule, that had started with the 2019 ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir following youth-led mass protests.
The military power grab has sparked an international outcry and triggered a new wave of street demonstrations, with another rally expected on Monday.
During the turmoil of recent months, prime minister Abdulla Hamdok was detained and later reinstated but then quit, warning that Sudan was at a dangerous crossroads threatening its very “survival”.
Deadly crackdowns have claimed the lives of 64 protesters, according to pro-democracy medics. A police general has also been killed in the street violence that has rocked Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries.
– Pandemic and poverty –
The UN World Health Organization said last week there had been 11 confirmed attacks on Sudanese health facilities since November.
The WHO said it was “also aware of the interception of ambulances, medical personnel and patients during their attempts to seek safety”.
It called for the attacks to “stop now”, pointing out that they threaten healthcare services needed more than ever during the Covid pandemic.
Covid-19 is a “grave threat” for Sudan, where 94 percent of the population has not been vaccinated, said the WHO.
Sudan has confirmed 93,973 coronavirus infections and about 4,000 deaths. In September, it said 64 percent of about 1,000 health workers tested had been found to be Covid-positive.
Sudan’s 45 million people have also been dealing with a severe economic crisis and inflation approaching 400 percent.
On Sunday, hundreds blocked key roads in the Northern Province, 350 kilometres (229 miles) from the capital, angered by recent news electricity prices would double — a move that was then frozen, but not officially abolished.
“No vehicle will pass until the authorities have cancelled this increase, because it signs the death certificate of our agriculture,” protester Hassan Idriss told AFP by phone.
The protests that led to the 2019 ouster of Bashir had started after the government decided to triple the price of bread.
– Hunger strike –
During the recent protests, Sudan has also often shut down the internet and moved to limit reporting on the unrest.
In the latest move it revoked the licence of Al Jazeera Mubasher, the live TV unit of the Qatar-based network, accusing it of “unprofessional” coverage of protests, the channel said.
The United Nations is now seeking to organise talks involving political, military and social actors to resolve the crisis.
UN special representative Volker Perthes announced the bid last week saying it was “time to end the violence and enter into a comprehensive consultative process”.
The mainstream faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the leading civilian pro-democracy group, said Sunday it would accept the offer of dialogue if it were to revive the transition to civilian rule.
Sudan’s military in April 2019 put an end Bashir’s three-decade rule, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of the autocrat and many regime officials.
Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
An imprisoned former foreign minister under Bashir, Ibrahim Ghandour, has begun a hunger strike along with several ex-regime officials, his family said Sunday.
They will only end it “once they have been freed or brought before an impartial tribunal”, his family said in a statement.
The public prosecutor’s office had recently ordered the release of several ex-officials, but Burhan instead ordered they stay in detention.
Ghandour’s family decried the “interference in judicial affairs”.
The protester movement however accuses Burhan, who was Bashir’s ground forces commander, of helping old regime figures come back to power.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Finance to release withheld salaries of resident doctors for the month of September and October 2021.
The Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, disclosed this to State House correspondents after a meeting with Buhari on Thursday.
He explained that the wages, which were seized on the premise of the no-work, no pay-rule following strikes embarked upon by the Joint Health Workers Union, have been approved by the President to be released to the health workers on compassionate grounds.
Responding to the grievances by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the minister asserted that since July 2021, a total of N52.1 billion revitalization fund has so far been released to workers in the university system in consonance with an MOA signed in December 2020 and expects that members of ASUU would have been adequately informed about the Federal Government’s efforts.
He further explained that payments were made following a nine-month industrial action embarked upon by the body. He insisted that the persisting altercation is the lack of knowledge by members of the payments and a renegotiation of the 2009 agreement involving conditions of service.
The minister, therefore, insisted that the recommendations still lie at the level of the Ministry of Education after which the Federal Government will take appropriate action.
This, according to him, does not amount to a refusal by the Federal Government to implement any agreement.
The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had earlier decided on a meeting for Saturday with zonal leaders of the union over an alleged failure of the Federal Government to implement agreements reached with the union in 2020.
Dr Ngige, therefore, appealed to ASUU to exercise patience with the government in order to reach a logical conclusion.
Two doctors and a pregnant woman have died of Lassa fever in Nasarawa State.
The Director of Public Health of the state Ministry of Health, Ibrahim Adamu confirmed their death to Channels Television on Wednesday via a phone conversation.
He said based on activities conducted on the outbreak response, the doctors are suspected to have contracted the disease from a pregnant woman which both of them operated on recently at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital.
The woman died of a bleeding disorder associated with fever, which brings the number of Lassa fever deaths in the state to three.
The two doctors, he stated, fell ill, got diagnosed and died in health facilities in Abuja.
“We can confirm the two doctors that have succumbed to the threat of Lassa fever. When they fell ill, they were not in the state, they fell ill outside Nasarawa State, they were admitted for treatment in Abuja, the diagnosis was actually done outside the state and the death also occurred in facilities that are in Abuja not within the state,” Adamu said.
“However based on the outbreak response activities we have conducted, it appears that they might have been infected from the state where a pregnant woman was said to have been operated upon and she died of bleeding disorder connected to fever, so the suspicion right now is that she might have been the source of the infection for those two doctors because they are the two persons that operated upon her.
He added that all contacts of the three victims have been identified and their tests all returned negative but the ministry will continue with surveillance.
Doctors and dentists under the aegis of National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) have threatened an indefinite strike in Benue State.
The group, in a letter addressed to the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, listed six issues its members have raised concerns about, but the state government has yet to resolve them.
It, therefore, directed its members in Benue to commence a total and indefinite industrial action by the end of Monday should the government fail to meet their demands.
This directive was contained in the letter jointly signed by NAGGMDP Chairman in Benue, Dr. Dooga Solomon, as well as the state chapter’s vice chairman and secretary, Dr. John Idikwu and Dr. Agbaji Abraham.
According to them, the union is taking the decision to go on strike following the expiration of the 21 days ultimatum and an extension by two weeks.
The government, the group claimed, has failed to pay adequate and appropriate attention to the plights of the association.
Some of the demands by the health workers include the revitalisation of the secondary level of the healthcare delivery system in Benue, payment of members’ seven months salaries in arrears, and the payment of their COVID-19 inducement allowances.
They also demanded the issuance of permanent and pensionable letters of appointment to all doctors who have completed their bond and are still working with the Hospitals Management Board (HMB), among others.
Read the letter to the governor below:
The Executive Governor of Benue State,
Benue People’s House,
The Head of Service,
NOTICE OF TOTAL AND INDEFINITE STRIKE BY MEMBERS OF NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT GENERAL MEDICAL AND DENTAL PRACTITIONERS (NAGGMDP) BENUE STATE CHAPTER.
Consequent upon the expiration of the twenty-one days (21) and the subsequent two weeks of extension of Ultimatum, respectively given to the Government of Benue State without adequate and appropriate attention to the plights of the Association by the Government on her demands of:
Revitalisation of the Secondary level of health care delivery system in Benue,
Payment of our seven (7) months salaries in arrears,
Payment of our COVID-19 inducement allowances (25% of individual’s basic salary multiplied by three months and payable in one tranche like it was done for all health workers in BSUTH over a year ago),
Issuance of Permanent and Pensionable letters of appointment to all Doctors that have completed their bond and are still working with the Hospitals Management Board (HMB),
Over taxation of doctors working with the HMB, and
Our contributory pension scheme.
Notice is hereby given that Members of NAGGMDP Benue State have in their Congress held on the 5th of December 2021 resolved unanimously to proceed on a total and indefinite strike commencing at 12.00am of 6th December 2021 until their demands and entitlements aforementioned are fully, appropriately, and adequately met.
“Members of the outlawed group had attempted to kidnap a group of medical doctors and nurses known as, ‘Doctors on the Move Africa’, who were providing free medical care to inhabitants of Amucha Community in Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State,” the statement read.
“The troops in conjunction with the Nigerian Air Force 211 Quick Response Group and the Nigerian Police on receipt of actionable intelligence on the criminal plot, swiftly moved in and rescued the medical team. The medical team has been escorted to a safe location.
“The troops afterward went after the hoodlums and made contact with them at Amauju Isu Local Government Area of Imo State, where they were found enforcing the illegal sit at home order in Amauju.
“In the firefight that ensued, one of the criminals was neutralized, while the others took to their heels. One of them, who had escaped with a gunshot wound was later apprehended by the local Vigilante and handed over to the police.”
The National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) in Kwara has commenced a seven-day warning strike across the 16 local government areas of the state.
Chairman of the association, Dr Saka Agboola, announced this on Monday at the sidelines of an emergency Congress by members in Ilorin, the state capital.
He explained that the association had been patient and given a series of ultimatum to the state government concerning their agitation on the welfare of members.
Agboola stated that as much as it was painful for the executives to reach such a decision, the congress has unanimously agreed on a seven-day warning strike.
This, according to him, is to give room for engagement with the government on some of their agitations, including the good condition of service, especially in the payment of new remuneration to the members of the union.
“We are not this form of pressure group, but it has gotten to a point that the wellbeing of doctors in Kwara has to be seriously looked into,” Agboola said.
“We have responsibilities to our families, our neighbours, and even to our patients. There is a need to remunerate the doctors to get efficient output.
“This is the more reason why we have engaged several fora at every opportunity to resolve our demands, but it is unfortunate that at the expiration of the ultimatum given, we have not been able to reach a comfortable agreement.”
Agboola noted that the one-week strike action would afford the government opportunity to re-engage the association.
Reacting to the development, the Director-General of the Kwara State Hospital Management Bureau, Mr Sa’ad Aluko, said the state government has been making effort to resolve the demands of the doctors.
He stressed that it was only a question of time, adding that the state government had met with the leadership of the association to look at ways to reach a resolution.
According to the bureau chief, the state government has already agreed to a 70 per cent increase out of the 100 per cent that is being agitated by the association.
“Based on the total algorithm and internally generated revenue, everything has to be looked into,” he said.
Aluko disclosed that the state government has set up a committee to find a balance between what was being requested and what was on the ground, adding that additional healthcare workers have been employed in the state hospitals.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has appealed to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve their industrial action as the Federal Government continues to negotiate with the union to end the dispute.
Ngige made the appeal during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, as the resident doctors strike enters Day 59.
“I want to appeal to NARD for them to reconsider their position, get back to work tomorrow or next and then come back again for discussions. We have so many things to discuss,” Ngige said.
“I have nephews who are resident doctors. I have three of them at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, UNTH Enugu, Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu. I have so many of them. I have a son who will graduate in Medicine in October. I cannot destroy the profession, I have to protect the profession too.”
The Minister also reacted to the court case filed by the Federal Government against the striking doctors.
According to Ngige, it is the Federal Ministry of Health and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation that can withdraw the case from court.
“The court has ruled and said ‘Go and do some more settlement but meanwhile, you go back to work and continue the settlement’,” he added.
Despite the National Industrial Court’s ruling ordering the striking doctors to return to work, the Minister asked the plaintiffs – Health Ministry and Attorney General’s office as well as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and NARD to approach the Labour Ministry to press their demands.
While noting that he had advised his colleague in the Health Ministry, Dr Osagie Ehanire “to see what he can do so that the discussion will set off,” Ngige said he had always advocated for settlement.
Ngige’s comments come two days after the National Industrial Court ordered resident doctors to suspend their strike action and go back to work, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Justice Bashar Alkali gave the order on Friday while ruling on an application by the Federal Government.
But the striking doctors have faulted the court’s ruling, vowing to appeal the order.
“As we are all aware, especially those that were present in court today (Friday), the NIC has given a ruling on the application for interlocutory injunction filed by the Federal Government,” the association said via a statement. “We are not satisfied with the ruling.
“After consultations with our lawyers, we have instructed our lawyers to appeal the ruling and file an application for stay of execution.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on health workers, including members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to return to their duty posts.
He made the call on Friday during a meeting with members of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) at the State House in Abuja.
The President urged others contemplating strikes to opt for settlement of issues by negotiation, no matter how long it takes.
“Debts genuinely owed Health workers will be settled,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu. “This administration has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, pensioners, and contractors and we have even revisited debts left by past administrations, once due verification is done.
“I learned that some of the 12 points demand in the ongoing strike were already addressed, although the review of a new hazard allowance has not been fully negotiated because of the sharp and deep division within the ranks of the striking doctors.”
President Buhari gave an assurance that all outstanding benefits owed medical doctors would be cleared, after verifications, insisting that going on strike was not an option to consider.
“The lives of citizens that could be lost or damaged when doctors withdraw services, are precious enough to be worth opting for peaceful resolution of differences.
“Protecting our citizens is not to be left to government alone, but taken as a collective responsibility in which, especially medical professionals play a critical role. Let me speak directly to the striking doctors; embarking on industrial action at this time when Nigerians need you most is not the best action to take, no matter the grievances,” he said.
The President said the outstanding issue of an establishment circular issued by the Head of Service, removing house officers, NYSC doctors from the scheme of service had an addendum circular from the National Salaries and Wages Commission to clarify that they would continue to earn the wages attached to them on their present wage structure.
He requested that the agreement reached in the meetings held on August 20 and 21 and captured in the MOU which he saw be religiously implemented.
‘More Challenges Ahead’
To further improve the health sector, President Buhari said budgetary allocations had been increased and a Health Sector Reform Committee led by the Vice President had been commissioned to identify and address weaknesses in the health system and align with global best practices that raise public confidence.
According to him, the government is also supporting initiatives to expand health insurance coverage and bring more resources to health financing.
“We have many more challenges ahead and much more to do, for our large population. In this respect, it is important to remind you that, as senior medical personnel and representatives of one of the most respected professional groups in the world, your responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Nigerians is clear,” the President told the NMA leaders.
“It does not end only with the welfare of your members but continues with a sense of responsibility for the entire country and its socio-political health and national stability. The global economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic, and despite recent pleasing news of more than five per cent economic growth of Nigeria in the last quarter, we are still having fiscal challenges to deal with, like most other countries.
“The source of revenue that Nigeria has depended on for so long experienced global decline, our population is rising fast and the tension arising from both is fuelling agitation among our youth. Organisations like the NMA could play a very useful moderating role in society.”
President Buhari commended the positive role of the NMA as the apex professional medical association in Nigeria, especially with regard to the ongoing industrial action.
In his remarks, NMA President, Professor Innocent Ujah, thanked the President for the appointment of members into strategic positions in government, assent to the Medical Residency Act, and immunisation coverage.
He said the association was concerned with the strike by doctors and had been doing its best to alleviate the suffering of patients across the country while appealing for an urgent resolution.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who was also present at the meeting, said the NMA had been playing a critical role in the development of the health sector, particularly in tackling pandemics, participating in policy formulation, and population health.