The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olurunnimbe Mamora, has appealed to the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to return to the negotiating table to address outstanding issues.
The minister appealed to NARD at the opening ceremony of the 2021 Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), FCT chapter, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The appeal followed NARD’s nationwide indefinite strike which started on Aug. 2 to press home the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding it entered into with Federal Government in March 2021 on welfare and other issues that affect members.
Mamora said discussing with the association and negotiating on ways to address the issues raised by the association would give opportunity for industrial peace and enable citizens to access healthcare.
He said “I encourage you to ensure industrial peace in the health sector so that citizens can reap maximum benefits from your efforts.
“In saying this, there cannot be a better time and opportunity for me to appeal to doctors who are currently on strike.
“My appeal is that they return to the negotiating table so that whatever outstanding issues can be sorted out. That is my passionate appeal to all our colleagues.
“Even in times of war, the combatants at the end of the day come to the roundtable for amicable resolution of issues. That is my appeal to our colleagues all over the country who are currently engaged in the strike for the benefit of our people.”
Mamora also reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to address emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, including efforts to expand healthcare coverage in the country.
He said “President Muhammadu Buhari is taking all necessary steps to strengthen Nigeria’s preparedness and response to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases through the provision of medical infrastructure.
“One of these efforts is making medical oxygen available in tertiary institutions.
“Furthermore, medical practice in Nigeria needs to align with the new normal way of life. Telemedicine allows long-distance patients and physicians to interact and obtain care, advice, monitoring, education, and remote admission.
“The Federal Ministry of Health is currently developing telemedicine and intends to maximize its use to expand healthcare coverage.”
The minister noted that primary healthcare facilities which were the closest to communities had become the weakest links in the healthcare delivery system due to their ineffectiveness to provide services needed.
He said “government is, therefore, making efforts toward changing this undesirable narrative. The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, in collaboration with stakeholders has developed simple messages to aid infectious disease detection.
“This will be done at the community level and the primary healthcare workers have been trained on clinical case detection. This capacity building is an ongoing and continuous process.
“We as a country cannot afford to be complacent because the cost of complacency in infectious disease control can be enormous.”
Earlier, Dr Enema Amodu, the NMA Chairman, FCT chapter, said political will, poor funding and infrastructure, and paucity of specialized personnel were the major problems to development in primary healthcare.
Amodu said that the meeting was, therefore, held to critically look into these challenges and how to address them.
He said “if you go through the act establishing Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), they are also saddled with the responsibility of immunization and we know that we are still within the COVID-19 pandemic era.
“If we had adhered to what needed to be done to ensure the functioning of the system in immunization, maybe the effect of the virus may not have been much.
“Strengthening the PHCs will also take a lot of load off the secondary and tertiary healthcare institutions.
“We also know that primary healthcare is where a teeming population of our indigent underprivileged people access; strengthening it will by extension improve and change the narrative of the health sector for the better.”
Some stakeholders at the event included Hon. Tanko Sununu, the Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services, represented by Dr Fatima Mairami, a Chief Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynecologist.
Others were the Minister of the FCT, Mohammed Bello, represented by Dr Mohammed Kawu, the acting Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretariat, FCTA, medical doctors and chief medical directors.
The theme of the 2021 conference is “Improving the Quality of Healthcare Services in the FCT in the Midst of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.”