By Chioma Obinna
The fragile peace in the nation’s troubled health sector may witness another setback following a new circular by the Federal government to stop the payment of salaries to medical house officers, nursing interns, medical laboratory science interns, and all other health interns.
The affected healthcare professionals have said the circular was a shock to them said they were not carried along but currently studying the circular and would resist it if not good enough.
The development which has sent shock waves across the country could potentially constitute a setback to recent gains within the sector.
In the circular dated April 12, 2021, and released by the National Council on Establishments, NCE, the highest decision-making body in the civil service showed that all medical house officers and interns have been removed from the payroll of the federal civil service.
The circular signed by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, reads in parts: “The National Council on Establishments (NCE) at its 42nd meeting held from 30th November to 4th December 2020 in Ikeja, Lagos State reviewed the current status of the internship programmes/housemanship/NYSC doctors in the service and approved their removal from the schemes of service as posts attracting grade levels in the salary structure.
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“The Council based its decision on the grounds that the period of these programmes/services forms part of the training in their respective professions. The intern shall, however, be considered for the payment of allowance to be determined by the national salaries, incomes, and wages commission.
“This approval will be reflected in the subsequent edition of the schemes of service.”
However, in a separate chat with Vanguard, some of the affected healthcare professionals expressed shock at the circular adding that they were investigating the circular as they were not carried along.
In a reaction, the views of the National President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Prof James Damen said: “I was very surprised with this development. Are we moving forward or going backward. We are mounting pressure on the Federal Government for the inclusion of our interns in the central posting of our interns and then just seeing this information.
“I am looking forward to getting the details of the circular before we react appropriately. In developed nations, before releasing this type of circular, professionals involved would have been consulted. We are just reading this information on social media,” he said.
On his part, the National Secretary of Nigeria Medical Association, Dr Philip Ekpe, who said it was too early to react, said: “It’s too early for the NMA to have a position. The circular came out (Thursday), but NMA will look at it. If it is not good enough we will resist it.”
On his part, the President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa said: “We have to investigate properly before making a statement.”