By Sola Ogundipe
The Nigerian Medical As-sociation yesterday backed down on its threat to embark on strike action following personal intervention by Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan at the instance of the Health Minister, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin.
The doctorsâ€™ strike which would have commenced Monday next week was shelvedÂ following the Vice Presidentâ€™s plea for the time to enable theÂ undertaking signed by the Minister of Health on the agreement to receive approval and ratification of the Federal Executive Council by the end of September 2009.
A statement signed by Mr. Niyi Ojuolape, the Special Communications Assistant to the Minister of Health, said the NMA President Dr. Prosper Igboeli gave assurance that the issue of suspending the proposed strike would be deliberated upon at the General Executive Council Meeting today of the NMA planned for today.
In the course of the meeting, Vice President Jonathan, after listening to presentations variously from the Minister of Health and Mr. Tokunbo Kayode, Minister of Labour alluded to his experience as a Deputy Governor during which similar issues of the health sector required his attention and of which he had to resolve in favour of the doctors.
Assuring of governmentâ€™s commitment to issues of the welfare of medical doctors and indeed the health sector at large given the sensitivity of the sector to the society, he assured government would do all it could to ensure that the matter in issue which is the Medical Salary Scale (MSS) is resolved.
The Vice President noted that the major issues identified in the course of the meeting were that of time and trust and asked the doctors to trust and give government the required time for the agreement to be implemented, especially given the fact that it is better to resolve this issue for the entire health sector holistically so that there will be no ripple negative effects with other professionals within the sector.
Igboeli, who promised to bring the promise of the Vice President before the General Executive Council Meeting today, expressed confidence that the strike will be shelved giving intervention of the Vice President on behalf of the President.
He, however urged government to ensure the promise is kept as there would be no further negotiation. For emphasis, he said that Doctors will undoubtedly go on strike by October 1 if the agreement is not ratified by the end of September as promised.
The NMA has been at loggerheads with government over the implementation of the Medical Salary Scale (MSS). The current leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health has swiftly addressed the issues and brought to the attention of the President who gave the green light for negotiations.
The negotiations achieved good results as within two weeks, there was an agreement. Implementation of the agreement has however been in issue because while the NMA wanted it to be implemented immediately, the Federal Ministry of Health has thereafter taken pains to ensure that the list of all the personnel involved is compiled and taken to the Salaries and Wages Commission for computation.
The computation which took a while due to its peculiar complexities has now been completed and will soon be presented to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for ratification by the Federal Executive Council.