Health Opinion

Between Nigerian doctors and journalists: Who make more sacrifices?

By Olamilekan Andu

The Federal Government has paid N8.9 billion COVID-19 allowance to placate striking members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). So, they have ended their nationwide strike. This is always the underlying reason for the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the NARD and other medical workers’ associations to go on strike – money. Journalists too have unions. Do they also have to bark to bite?

Since doctors have been using strikes to get what they wanted, they have never got enough! Predictably, there will be other strikes soon over petty demands.

I have lost count of the frivolous actions of medical workers since I grew up. There has hardly been any year in the past six decades that doctors did not have one flimsy excuse or the other for going on strike.

I’ve been practising journalism since 1984; I can’t recall a single day that media practitioners went on strike for any demand. Are journalists not professionals like doctors? Don’t journalists work even in more hazardous terrains than doctors?

Why are doctors given undue privileges that they abuse so flagrantly and are not commensurately censured for? If doctors in other climes behaved like their Nigerian counterparts, would we get effective medical services in those other countries where we fly to for treatment? Would medical services not have been grounded in other countries if their doctors were allowed to continue to make industrial action so pedestrian as the major bargaining premise?

The truth is that the weak always wail to get attention about their “suffering” in order to get away with their ficklemindedness.

Now that they have got the money, will services improve in our hospitals? I have been to many hospitals – public and private – where the doctors were idling away while patients were dying. Some doctors were sanctioned recently for negligence that led to the death of a baby, only because the parents of the baby petitioned the right channel. Such occurrences are commonplaces in many hospitals across Nigeria with the victims having no one or means to seek redress for their irreplaceable losses in the hands of highly insensitive professionals.

The Hippocratic Oath places the burden of saving lives before any other consideration on medical practitioners, just as the Socratic Oath places the burden of always reporting the truth on all journalists without showing any bias. It is stupifying that while Nigerian journalists are grossly underpaid and overworked, they still perform their duty to humanity without strident complaints, unlike the doctors that drop the stethoscope to lodge the minutest complaint. Let it be said loud and clear: doctors are not superior professionals to journalists. They are only overtolerated for their insensitivity to the plight of their patients.

What risks do doctors take that journalists don’t take more? During this Coronavirus lockdown, most journalists were placed on half-salaries; many others lost their jobs. Yet, many risked their lives to traverse dangerous terrains to report the pandemic to the world.

If not for the unsung journalists, who would have brought the attention of the government to the doctors’ demand? Who would have known them without the journalists reporting them to the world?

On radio and television; in newspapers and magazines, journalists ensure that the voices of the agitated are heard across the globe. Yet, their own voices appear stifled in the face of compelling needs.

Is it because journalists don’t have demands or lack the medium to make noise? No. The reality is that the voices of the silent are louder than the cries of the wailers.

What emboldens doctors to spurn the government all the time? Did heavens fall during the periods they went on strike? Did everyone die because doctors abandoned their work?
Many Nigerians even prefer to patronise the herbs sellers, who will not go on any strike, to consulting doctors that place emphasis on money over the safety of lives.

The next time they go on their misadventurous action, the government should employ others that are willing to work. There are thousands of brilliant, diligent, well trained doctors that are looking for jobs.

If the government does not call their bluff once and for all, they will continue to display the crass mentality that they can hold their patients and government to ransom and get whatever they want. There must be an end to their professional blackmail. That is what their frivolous demands amount to. Enough is enough.

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