Nigerian doctors strike as Ebola descends on the region

The first case of Ebola may have arrived, and died in Nigeria.

A Liberian national entered the country by air.  After landing, he became severely ill, began vomiting and sought medical aid.  He was admitted to a hospital, tested for a variety or diseases.  He appears to have had Ebola, pending confirmation from a WHO lab. He died a few days ago.

The government has tried to find and isolate everyone he was in contact with, a difficult task. Difficult for two reasons.  It’s very hard to find everyone who was in contact with a person, especially if that person was traveling through different countries by air.  The other problem is the doctors’ strike in Nigeria.

Young villagers carrying grain near Obudu Cattle Ranch close to the border or Cameroon and Nigeria. Lorimer Images / Shutterstock.com

Young villagers carrying grain near Obudu Cattle Ranch close to the border or Cameroon and Nigeria. Lorimer Images / Shutterstock.com

A large number of doctors from the Nigerian Medical Association have been on strike for a while. Apparently they are protesting the fact that the government wants to make non-MDs consultants.  Consultants are fully-qualified doctors who are in charge of patients in hospitals.  They diagnose, treat and direct the care of patients, somewhat like attending physicians or hospitalists in US medicine.  The doctor are protesting that others, less qualified, will be allowed to act as consultants.

As I wrote earlier, Ebola is spreading in the region.  These doctors could be working on educating the populace, preparing for any other Ebola cases that might develop, preparing isolation units, and more.  But apparently, negotiations between the government and the doctors’ group are strained, and have been for months.

The government appears unwilling to back down from its position, and the members of the doctors’ group are also adamant that they won’t call off the strike unless some progress is made.  Though the two groups are still meeting, it doesn’t seem like they are anywhere near a common ground.

Nigeria is a populous country, with limited infrastructure and inadequate health care facilities. Lagos, Nigeria has a population of about 21 million.

If Ebola takes hold there, the results could be disastrous.  The government and striking doctors need to bring this stalemate to a quick resolution.


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • Indigo

    I’m concerned but I doubt a doctors’ strike will make much of a difference.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    This is gonna be really bad. Two Americans have it.

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