By Victor Ahiuma-Young
The Federal Government and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have reached an agreement raising hope that the striking doctors may end their industrial action any moment from today.
The agreement was signed Friday after a conciliation meeting between both parties at the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, fine-tuned the Memorandum of Action (MOA) signed by both parties on March 31, 2021, a few hours before NARD embarked on the indefinite strike on April 1.
Leaders of NARD are expected to communicate the Minister of Labour and Employment the outcome of their in-house meeting before the end of today on the strike situation.
The Friday meeting had addressed all the six demands of NARD, namely, the Non-payment of House Officers/ Non-recruitment of House officers, Abolishment of the Bench Fees, Non-payment of National Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment Arrears, Residency Training Allowance, Hazard Allowance and Payment of Resident Doctors on GIFMIS platform.
Briefing after the meeting, Ngige said they noted that the payment of the House Officers’ salaries experienced some irregularities as double payments were made to some house officers in some centers and a few have not been paid as of date.
According to the Minister, in view of this situation, a 5 man Committee was set up to harmonise the list of the names submitted by NARD, Chairman, Committee of Chief Medical Directors (CCMD) with MDCN.
He explained that the Committee was to work for 72 hours and produce a valid list to IPPIS through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), while IPPIS is to as soon as possible create a platform where all payments made and the recipients would be made available for accessibility and information, without which it would be difficult to determine those that have been paid and those not paid.
“IPPIS should adopt the folio number of H/Os as a means of identification of them as they are being engaged and for their payments.”
On the abolishment of the bench fees which was earlier agreed as part of the MoA, Ngige said the Permanent Secretary FMoH is to issue a circular to this effect and send a Memorandum on this for ratification at National Council on Health (NCH) whenever convened.
Regarding the non-payment of national minimum wage consequential adjustment arrears and salary shortfall in 2014 – 2016 of resident doctors, Ngige said NARD and CCMDs should immediately submit list of affected institutions and personnel strength in order for it to be captured in the 2021 Supplementary Budget. The arrears should be from April 2019 to December 2019 as in MoA1.
“The CCMDs and the Permanent Secretary of the FMoH are to work on this with the assistance of the Budget Office (BoF) in order to also capture it in the Supplementary 2021 Budget. The special issue of the 2014 – 2016 Salary Shortfall is to be treated here too. Two (2) weeks is dedicated to this.”
On the issue of Residency Training Allowance, he said 558 people who are not Residents were wrongly paid and 1003 bonafide Residents were not paid.
He disclosed that those not paid will be captured in the 2021 Supplementary Budget while those wrongly paid will be requested to refund same.
“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is to provide a special account for this remittance. The Post Graduate Medical College is to henceforth compile the list of all Residents eligible for this payment and transmit to the Budget Office (BoF) through the Federal Ministry of Health.”
Coming to the issue of hazard allowances, he said the meeting noted that the issue is not peculiar to NARD but cuts across the entire Health Sector and her workforce.
‘The meeting was informed that the Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS) would be meeting on Monday, 12th April, 2021 at the Federal Ministry of Finance to examine the hazard allowance issue with National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) after which the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), NARD and other stakeholders will meet on Wednesday, 14th April, 2021 in the Federal Ministry of Labour (FML&E) with their position papers with the PCS. NARD is to come with their position paper as part of the NMA team.
“On Group Life Insurance claims for deceased NARD members, NARD should facilitate the compilation of the list of deceased members by CMDs at the appropriate desk in their institutions. This will be forwarded to the relevant insurance Companies for payment through the FMoH. This should be accomplished on or before end of April 2021.”
On the issue of doctors being paid on the GIFMIS platform, he said the meeting noted that NARD is happy with the progress being made to migrate affected doctors to IPPIS platform before the end of April 2021, adding that IPPIS confirmed that one week after getting the verified list from BoF, payment will be made.
“In view of these understandings, NARD National Officers Committee (NoC) will consult urgently her Executive Council with a view to giving this conciliation process a chance for industrial peace by calling off the strike embarked on 1st April 2021.
NARD is to communicate to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment on their decision before 12 noon of 10th April, 2021.No member of NARD is to be punished for this strike,” Ngige said.