June 22, 2020 / 3:15 PM / 2 months ago

Nigerian doctors suspend strike over benefits to hold talks

LAGOS (Reuters) - Resident doctors in Nigerian public hospitals have suspended a strike they began last week in which they demanded better benefits, including the provision of more protective equipment, as they battle the coronavirus, the union said on Monday.

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), launching the industrial action last Monday, said it would give the government two weeks to meet its demands or else those treating COVID-19 patients, who stayed on the job, would also walk out.

Resident doctors are those who have graduated from medical school and are training as specialist consultants. They are pivotal to frontline healthcare in Nigeria as they dominate the emergency wards in its hospitals.

The NARD has sought a COVID-19 pay supplement in addition to life insurance for doctors and more funds in the federal budget for their training, among other demands.

The union said in a communique that it suspended the strike from Monday after steps by government officials which included showing a commitment to procuring life insurance for health workers, and the inclusion of funding for training of residents in the 2020 budget.

“This decision to suspend the strike action was taken in order to give the federal and state government time to fulfil the outstanding demands,” NARD said in the communique.

“The national officers shall continue negotiations with stakeholders and progress shall be reviewed in four weeks,” it said.

Nigeria has had 20,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 518 deaths. Most cases have been in Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest city with 20 million inhabitants.

Strikes are common in Nigeria’s public health system, with clinicians frequently seeking pay rises and improvements to under-funded infrastructure to meet the rising burden of healthcare.

Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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