….as govt tells doctors ‘your strike is not justified’
National Association of Resident Doctors says its members will not call off its ongoing nationwide strike that has prevented access to healthcare in hospitals across the country.
On April 1, resident doctors downed tools in protest against poor remuneration and conditions of service.
NARD at its National Executive Council meeting on Wednesday said its members had resolved to continue their strike until all their demands are met.
The doctors also accused the Federal Government of insincerity in its response to their grievances.
NARD said in its communique, “The NEC unanimously voted that the ongoing total and indefinite strike that started on the 1st of April 2021 be continued until the federal and state governments of Nigeria meets up with our demands.
“The NEC painfully observed that despite all the efforts of by the National Officers Committee (NOC) to ensure that the Federal Government do the needful to prevent the ongoing strike, Government has continued in their insincerity of promises hence the current stalemate.”
The association said it is disappointed with Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, who had said he was not aware the doctors are collecting N5,000 as hazard allowance until the coronavirus pandemic started.
NARD said it had given a two-month ultimatum before declaring the industrial action “when it became apparent that the ministry of health was not interested in any form of settlement to avert the avoidable action.
“NEC also noted that the Memorandum of Action signed was after 12 midnight on 31st of March, 2021 when the ultimatum had elapsed. Without prejudice to the labour laws and other extant laws of the land, the industrial action had already begun before the MOA was signed and as such, not tenable.
“They noted the admittance of the Hon Minister of state for health who wholeheartedly agreed that all the issues raised by NARD in her communique are germane and legitimate and further admitted that bureaucratic bottlenecks in government led to delay/ non-implementation of previous memoranda signed with NARD.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the NEC stated clearly that the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors is not a financial arm of the Nigerian government and therefore not involved in any form of payment of residency training funding as was alleged in the meeting called at the instance of the HMoLE (honourable minister of labour and employment).
“To set the record straight, the offices and officers involved are the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and her Registrar as well as the Office of Hospital services and her Director. When the errors in payment were noticed, NARD informed both bodies appropriately for further action as may be necessary.”
After appraising the government’s response to its demands, NARD said the industrial action goes on although it is still mindful of its oath to take care of patients.
“We want to use this medium to reiterate our commitment to the smooth running of all tertiary institutions in the country and the provision of specialist healthcare to Nigerians but we need to first of all care for our own health and welfare in order to give standard care to our patients. This is in line with our physician oath,” it said.
You have no justification for strike, FG tells doctors
But the Federal Government has said NARD has lost all moral and legal grounds to continue its seven-day-old strike, urging them to call off the action.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday said the Federal Government has not only “substantially met the seven-point demand by NARD, it has also demonstrated transparency in their implementation.
“The House Officers have started receiving their payments in the federal government teaching hospitals and federal medical centres across the federation. I spoke with the Accountant General of the Federation as well as with two Chief medical directors of teaching hospitals this morning and they confirmed payment to house officers.
“By the close of work today, all would have been paid as the officers at the office of the AGF worked even during the public holidays to this effect.”
According to the minister, though some of the house officers were recruited outside the quota allocated by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, and some recruited between January and March when there was an embargo on selective recruitment by teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres, amnesty was granted to all to be paid in line with the Memorandum of Action.
The minister said, “We have also abolished benching in training as well as stopped the deduction of N15,000 per month from the salaries of house doctors for accommodation. We directed the refund of the deductions and the entire money is now paid to the house doctors to negotiate with the local authorities and sort out individual accommodation.
“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria has also opened her online portal for the recruitment of house officers effective April 1, 2021 in the spirit of the MOA . It has also started recruiting and posting house doctors almost immediately, even within the public holidays. All these are items time-lined in the MOA for execution within three to four weeks and that is why we agreed to meet in four weeks to access implementation.
“We have an MOA that is signed by all the affected agencies of government, namely the Federal Ministry of Health, Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors , chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Budget Office of the Federation , Office of the accountant General of the Federation, officials of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour as the conciliating body.’’
The minister said the President of NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, has also acknowledged when he met him in the company of the Minister of State, Health and the Secretary of the Nigerian Medical Association, that the president of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof I. Uja, kept the leadership of NARD in the dark over the ongoing initial step of the review of the Hazard Allowance with the Remuneration Committee of the NMA, Federal Ministry of labour and Employment as well as the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission.
‘’And that it was for this reason that NARD erroneously brought it up as part of their demands for negotiation,’’ the statement noted.