By Ben Agande
Abuja — The Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu said, yesterday, that contrary to media reports, the Federal Government has not sacked any doctor under its employ.
Professor Onyebuchi told State House correspondents that what the government did was the suspension of the residency programme in federal hospitals.
It would be recalled that the Ministry of Health in a press release by its Deputy Director of Press, Alhaji Isiaka Yusuf, said last week that it had to do so after exploring all avenues to end the Nigerian Medical Association’s strike, which it said had compounded the health crisis in the country.
The Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, had directed its members nationwide to go on strike on July 1.
“The situation has been compounded by the recent importation of the Ebola Virus Disease into Nigeria on July 20, 2014.
Following the presidential declaration of a National Public Health Emergency on Ebola Disease, which has united the entire country in the efforts to contain the disease, it is quite regrettable that the people who should take leadership role in the fight against the Ebola disease are now the most unsupportive,” the statement said.
Explaining the decision, Professor Chukwu told State House Correspondents that it was rather the change in vocabulary from suspension to sack, that might have sent out the wrong signals.
He said that the allotted time within which the resident doctors were supposed to be acquiring the needed skills was being wasted, since government’s decision to reappraise the programme.
Chukwu, however, said that the suspension of the residency programme may last for months, until the committee about to be set up by him, submits its report for the way forward.
“They were not sacked, it is a matter of interpretation. For example, if someone while still working actively dies, or whether that person resigned or was dismissed or retired or terminated, all mean different things in the public service.
“But the end point is that the person is no longer working. “I want us to put things in perspective. Government did not sack anybody, it is true that they themselves have not been working for almost two months, except those in private hospitals.
“Resident doctors in both federal and state hospitals have not been working for almost two months now, and they have not participated in the control of this Ebola Virus Diseas, they have not played any role.
“So even if government had not taken any decision, they are not working and I don’t know why suddenly the media started taking interest in them. They are not part of this success story.
“But what happened is like in the aviation industry where when you buy a ticket and you fail to show up, they say, ‘no show,’ and they even penalise you. So there is no show of the resident doctors and even government is still paying them.
“Sometimes, we need to think deeply about what we do to ourselves. government says, why can’t we use this period to appraise properly the residency programme and come up with something that can help the country.
Training of a doctor must be done properly. They have an allotted time to acquire skills. Anybody can pass the theoretical exams, but has he acquired the skills? We need to be honest with ourselves.
“If you suspend any course do you keep students redundant? You give them opportunity if they feel you are wasting their time they can apply for other courses.”
He added that government’s decision only affects resident doctors in federal hospitals and it is not a permanent thing ” I believe we will quickly appraise this situation and hopefully government will resume residency programme because honestly we need to train doctors in the specialist.”