Why doctors’ strike will continue

With an army of over 16,000 doctors, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is the single largest medical group in any teaching hospital in the country. The doctors are on strike because the government has not honoured the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) they both signed.

Speaking with The Nation, NARD President Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi listed their grievances as non-disbursement of the Medical Residency Training Funds, poor working conditions in state and federal hospitals, irregular payment of salaries and a paltry N5,000 monthly, called hazard allowance, which was last reviewed in 1991.

“Between April 10 and now, it’s 116 days. This year alone there have been two major strikes – April 1 and August 2, 2021.

“I got a letter from the Ministry of Health yesterday evening saying we do not have a right to go on a strike. The letter said there is a court judgment that restrains us from going on a strike. I am aware that the Ministry of Labour has a meeting with the Ministry of Health today at 2pm. I am aware that they said they will call us after their meeting today.

“However, we heard from the Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Hon. (Dr) Tanko Sununu, who said they are trying to schedule a meeting with us on Monday but we have not gotten the invite yet,” Dr Okhuaihesuyi said.

The doctors are also demanding the immediate withdrawal of the circular removing House Officers from the scheme of service. They decried the undue hardship caused by the GIFMIS platform due to the delays in payment of their salaries, ranging from three to seven months. Also, NARD noted that despite the government’s promise to migrate her members from the GIFMIS to the IPPIS platform, they are still stuck on the GIFMIS platform which is laced with irregularities. Furthermore, it noted that the bench fee for outside postings by resident doctors has been abolished, however, some Chief Medical Directors have renamed the bench fee as training fee, causing hardship on her members.

NARD said with regards to the non-payment of the National Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment, the list of affected institutions and personnel strength had since been submitted to the Federal Ministry of Health as directed by the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed with the Federal Government, yet nothing has been done.

“The National Executive Council (NEC) noted that the Chief Medical Directors, in collaboration with NARD, have submitted the list of salary shortfalls for 2014 to 2016. They noted with dismay the merry-go-round behaviour of the Federal Ministry of Health in disbursing the salary shortfalls to her members.

“They observed with concern the conditions of our members under different state government employs, especially Abia, Imo and Ondo states who currently owe our members 19 months, seven  months and four months’ salary arrears.

“They however appreciated the promise by Abia State Governor to pay three of the 19 months arrears owed our members in ABSUTH by August 2, 2021.

“They observed with serious concerns the poor response of most governments in domesticating the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017, while commending states like Delta and Benue which have adopted the law.

“The NEC lamented the acute manpower shortage in most tertiary health institutions and the attendant burnout effects on our members. They noted with serious concerns that this situation is made worse by the ongoing deadly brain drain decimating the nation’s health care system.

“The NEC bemoaned the non-remittance of her membership dues by the Registrar of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Dr. T.A.B Sanusi, despite following all the dictates of the Nigeria Labour law and appropriate stakeholders’ consultations.

“The NEC observed with serious concerns that despite several meetings with the Presidential committee on Salaries and other top government stakeholders on the review of hazard allowance for health workers, the hazard allowance still remains a paltry sum of N5,000.

“The NEC also noted the non-payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance to some of our members in federal and most of our members in state tertiary institutions.”

SOURCE: THE NATION

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