NIGERIA’S federal government has threatened to take punitive action against any resident doctor on its payroll who fails to resume work today June 17 in a desperate bid to break the recent strike called by the National Association of Resident Doctors (Nard).
On Monday this week, Nard commenced a nationwide strike after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum given to the government to meet their demands with regards to combating the coronavirus pandemic. Nard pointed out that it was unhappy with the approach the government has adopted, claiming not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) has been provided to its members.
Among other things Nard was protesting the harassment of its members by the security forces as they go about trying to combat the pandemic. Nard president Dr Aliyu Sokomba, also advocated the provision of funding for Medical Residency Training in the 2021 Appropriation Bill, as well as payment of all arrears, owed its members in the federal and states tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage.
Yesterday, a negotiation meeting convened by the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige with the health minister Osagie Ehanire, and the Nard leadership, ended without any agreement. Dr Ngige, himself a medical doctor, acknowledged that health workers are the essential frontline officers during the coronavirus pandemic and have suffered great mishaps across the country.
He added: “We have paid those allowances since last night and it was directly paid into the account of recipients. We are also hopeful that between the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (Ippis) office and the Central Bank of Nigeria, that before 24 hours they would all be credited for April and May.
“The payment wasn’t made for only resident doctors but also for consultants, nurses, pharmacists, physiologist, mortuary attendants, ICU centres and all health care workers in coronavirus designated hospitals and all federal medical centres in designate states. We assumed that these issues have been settled because Ippis has shown evidence.
“We have also agreed on matters that are in court, that we should step them down so that we do not enter areas that are in the purviews of the court. Also, on the issue of group life insurance and the employee compensation, they have been paid and we have equally said that they have no right to make claim for the resident doctors or any other health workers that must have had a mishap in the cause of work resulting in death.
“For those who do not die or have mishap or accidents in the cause of their work but became incapacitated, they can always make claims through the Employee Compensation Act, which the Federal Government have already activated. The appropriation for residence program has been captured in the 2021 budget and would roll over from 2020.”
Dr Osagie added that Nigeria was the first country in the world where doctors went on strike during a global pandemic. He added: “The health of Nigerians is very important at this crucial time and we will ensure that the lives of Nigerians are protected, therefore, we will not allow our hospitals to be fallow.
“At this point, the health workforce is essential services and we have pleaded and have equally done everything to meet the demands that are being made by them. We at the ministry of health are ready to protect the lives of Nigerians and we are not going to allow our hospitals to do otherwise.
“The resident doctors have told us that they are not returning to work very soon until certain conditions are met and truth be told, they cannot keep extending the goal post any time they like. So, Wednesday morning, those who report to work will be taken as those who are still in service and the register will be taken and closed at 12 noon and by then we will know who wants to still be in service.”
Dr Sokomba said that the doctors would only call off the ongoing action within 24 hours if the government brings something tangible to the table. During their meeting, the Nard officials refused to return to the talks after a recess.