Nigerian doctors in state-run hospitals have called off a strike over pay, inadequate facilities and a lack of protective equipment, union leaders said.
The strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which represents some 40 percent of Nigeria’s doctors, began on Monday. It was the latest in a string of work stoppages to hit the country as it struggles to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
NARD president Aliyu Sokomba told AFP the industrial action was suspended on Thursday to give the government enough time to meet its demands.
“The NEC (National Executive Council) of the association has resolved that the strike be suspended because nobody has received a dime anyway. But because we have received commitment from the government,” he said.
“We always give them time to do what they want. We have asked them what time they want and they say two weeks. We are giving them the two weeks.”
Unlike previous strikes, medics treating coronavirus patients were part of the latest action.
On Wednesday, Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire had appealed to the doctors to return to work, describing their action as “ill-timed and ill-advised” at a time when Nigeria is battling the pandemic.
There are some 42,000 doctors in Nigeria, out of which 16,000 are resident doctors – medical school graduates training as specialists.
Doctors have long complained of a lack of beds and drugs in hospitals as well as inadequate protective kits.
Other demands include life insurance coverage, a pay rise and payment of unsettled wages.
In June, the NARD staged a week-long strike, but doctors treating coronavirus cases remained on the job.
Authorities fear any reduction in capacity could harm the country’s ability to tackle the pandemic as its number of infections continues to rise.
Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation with 200 million inhabitants – has recorded 55,632 cases and 1,070 deaths since the first confirmed case of the virus in February. About 1,000 health workers have been infected with the virus, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.