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GAMBIA: NARD DEPLORES DIFFICULT WORKING CONDITIONS OF DOCTORS IN COUNTRIES LIKE GAMBIA – DR. BUKOLA SAKARI

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Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has revealed what National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) told him about the deplorable working conditions of doctors.

Saraki made the revelation in a Facebook post on Sunday.

The doctor-cum-politician commended the leadership of NARD for calling off a strike embarked upon to protest their deplorable working conditions.

He further commended the resident doctors for continuing to work under the tough conditions, including poor pay and extremely long hours, saying it was a sign of patriotism.

Saraki’s post read in full:

Yesterday, I had lunch with some members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). After commending them for their patriotic decision to call off the strike action they earlier embarked on and the sacrifices they make, they apprised me of some of the challenges they face in their daily duties.

The one that shocked me most was the revelation that many of the members put in over 100 hours of service every week. I remember that as a young doctor working in the hospitals, the maximum hour I was doing per week was 72 hours. The UK and most countries have since reduced the maximum number of hours a doctor can work in a week for safety reasons. Yet, in our country, some doctors still put in over 100 hours! This constitutes a danger to the patients those doctors attend to.

I understand that this is a result of an acute shortage of personnel. Many of our qualified doctors and nurses have left the country to practice overseas. I am even surprised to learn that not only the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and other Western nations attract doctors from Nigeria, other African countries like Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, and Senegal now poach Nigerian doctors.

Some of the problems are not necessarily just poor remuneration but a result of bureaucratic bottlenecks which delay the prompt replacement of those who have left. Those responsible for this need to address it urgently as this, I am told, is one of the conditions for calling off the strike action.

As regards the poor pay, all state governments and the federal government should look into this. Surely countries like Gambia don’t have the resources that we have. So, it is about the premium we put on the remuneration of the medical personnel.

As a former governor and Senate President who introduced the Community Health Insurance Scheme at the state level and
initiated the inclusion of one percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund as a basic health fund as one of the ways to improve the welfare of doctors and other health personnel, I see the danger we find ourselves if nothing is done urgently at all levels to build on these past efforts.

For the governments at national and sub-National level, in the absence of enough qualified personnel, building big hospitals and sophisticated equipment is putting the cart before the horse. And this should be reflected in setting priorities while preparing their budget.

As a matter of urgency, all stakeholders – policymakers, government officials at national and sub-national levels, non-governmental organisations, development partners, civil society groups, individuals who run health-related foundations, and others – we should all do our bit in addressing this exit of our medical doctors and nurses.

Let me at this point say kudos to the doctors for working under these tough conditions. We appreciate their patriotism.

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