—Says demands being resolved
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA
THE Federal Government has pleaded with resident doctors to consider the plight of the 80 per cent of the citizenry in need of Healthcare.
Resident Doctors have threatened to withdraw their services if the government fails to meet their demands.
Pleading with them not to embark on strike, the government said the country was in a bad place health-wise because of the impact of the COVID – 19 pandemics on the health sector.
Speaking at a conciliatory meeting with the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) yesterday, in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige said the majority of the welfare issues under contention were almost resolved even before the letter of complaint and notification of planned strike action was delivered at the ministry.
The Minister in his opening remarks before the meeting went into a closed session, said the government had started discussions on hazard health allowance for health workers in the country.
Ngige noted that as a conciliator, the complaints of the doctors have been adequately communicated to the relevant ministries.
He further said that several meetings have been ongoing and proposals drew to address the situation before it degenerates into a strike.
According to him, “We are here because we have started solving your issues. We put up proposals with given timelines on how to deal with them. We will look at those proposals with you, fix adequate timelines so that the people on the government side will be implementing and marking them as they execute them.
“I have held informal meetings with the finance ministry and they told me they have started solving some of the problems, the two committees in the National Assembly have also tried to get you and your employers on the same page. We have to intervene to ensure industrial peace in the health industry.
“We are in a very bad period health-wise; the world over and Nigeria is not an exception so, we have to think about the generality of Nigerians because right now, 80 per cent of Nigerians are our patients because of the COVID-19 pandemic so we have to look at the issues that way and see how we can get the best out of this situation.”
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Abdullahi Mashi, who represented his ministers appeared at the meeting, appealed to the doctors to reconsider embarking on strike, given that most of the issues on the ground were almost resolved.
“Most of the issues are almost solved the only thing remaining is to get the commitment of NARD to suspend the strike action. All efforts are being put in Place,” the permanent secretary said.
President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, who spoke on behalf of his members, said they were looking forward to resolving all issues and grievances during the meeting.
The resident doctors had resolved to commence “a total and indefinite strike” on April 1 2021, by 8 am if the Federal Government refused to accede to its demands.
This was the outcome of its Extraordinary National Executive Council meeting held on Saturday, March 27 2021 at the Trauma Center of National Hospital Abuja to review its earlier ultimatum and deliberate on burning issues affecting residency training, healthcare delivery and welfare.
The communique of the NEC attended by over 50 chapters of NARD was signed by its President, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi; Secretary-General, Dr. Jerry Isogun and Publicity/Social Secretary, Dr. Dotun Osikoya.
The document reads: “The NEC unanimously agreed that NARD should proceed on a total and indefinite strike on April 1 2021, by 8am if the following demands are not met.
“Immediate Payment of all salaries owed to all house officers including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31 2021.
“Immediate payment of all salary arrears including March salaries for our members in all Federal (GIFMIS platform) and State Tertiary Health Institutions across the country especially ASUTH, IMSUTH and UNIMEDTH.
“Upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50% of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID – 19 inducement allowance especially in State owned-tertiary Institutions.
“Abolishment of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by our members on outside postings in all Training Institutions across the country with immediate effect.
“Payment of Salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015 and 2016 to our members in all Federal Institutions including state-owned institutions as earlier agreed with NARD.
“Payment of death in service insurance for all health workers who died as a result of COVID-19 infection or other infectious diseases in the country.
“Universal domestication/implementation of the 2017 MRTA by all Federal Government and State-owned Training Institutions to ensure proper funding of Residency Training in the country as stipulated by the Act.
“Immediate payment of 2019, the balance of 2020 and 2021 Medical Residency Training Funds to our members including those under state government employ.
“Immediate implementation of September 2017 Memorandum of Terms of Settlement between NARD and the Federal Government of Nigeria in order to bring lasting peace to the health sector and curb the ongoing ugly trend of brain drain from the health sector.
“Immediate review of the Act regulating Postgraduate Medical Training in Nigeria in line with International Best Practices to remove the unnecessary rigours in Residency Training in Nigeria, one of the factors attributed to brain drain in the health sector.
“Immediate commencement of employment into all Government-owned hospitals to improve service delivery to Nigerians, enhance Residency Training and curb the attendant brain drain in the health sector.
“We also demanded the reintroduction of medical super salary structure and specialist allowance for all Doctors as already approved for some other health workers. This will go a long way in ensuring peace in the health sector.
“The NEC unanimously demanded the sack of the Registrar of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for failure to demonstrate competence in the handling of the central placement of house officers. This will give room for smooth implementation of the central placement of house officers without further delays.
“Finally, the NEC reiterated her commitment to the smooth running of all tertiary institutions in the country and the provision of specialist healthcare to Nigerians but urge the Federal Government to urgently meet the above demands in order to avert this avoidable industrial action.”
As at the time of filing this story, the meeting was still ongoing at the conference hall of the ministry.