Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment Photo: Channels TV

Healthcare: Why we embark on indefinite strike nationwide ─NARD

*The strike commenced 8a.m. this (Thursday, April 1) morning, and we enjoin all Resident Doctors to start the strike immediately, says Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, President of National Association of Resident Doctors

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In spite of the earlier agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria with a Memorandum of Action (MOA) to stave off the nationwide industrial action, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has said members of the union have commenced strike across the country.

It was learnt Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment, while addressing newsmen at the end of a meeting with NARD Wednesday, March 31, in Abuja, FCT, had said that there was an agreement with NARD to halt the industrial action initially slated to commence Thursday, if the Federal Government failed to meet their demands.

Nigerian Resident Doctors during a protest

Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, President of NARD, announced the commencement of the nationwide strike during an interview on a breakfast programme on Channels Television.

Okhuaihesuyi stated: “The strike commenced 8a.m. this (Thursday) morning, and we enjoin all Resident Doctors to start the strike immediately.”

Ahead of the planned strike, the Minister for Labour and Employment, at the conciliatory meeting with the leaders of the union Wednesday in Abuja was reported to have appealed to the aggrieved medical practitioners to have a rethink and sheathe their sword.

The Federal Government, according to Dr. Ngige, was making efforts at ensuring that the doctors’ demands were met.

However, the NARD Chief, who led other leaders of the union to the discussion in Abuja, said the members were not strange to the government’s proposal in this regard.

He stressed the need for the government to take more responsibility.

The NARD members’ demands from government

In their demands, the doctors had called for the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.

They also demanded the immediate payment of all salary arrears, including March salaries for members in all Federal (GIFMIS platform) and State Tertiary Health Institutions across the country, especially ASUTH, IMSUTH, and UNIMEDTH.

NARD sought an upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary Institutions.

They called for the abolishment of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by their members on outside postings in all training institutions across the country with immediate effect.

According to the doctors, salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015, and 2016 should be paid to their members in all Federal institutions, including state-owned institutions as earlier agreed with the government.

They asked for the payment of death in service insurance for all health workers who died as a result of COVID-19 infection or other infectious diseases in the country.

Other demands, made at the meeting of the National Executive Council of the union held on Saturday last week at the National Hospital in Abuja, read:

Universal domestication/implementation of the 2017 MRTA by all Federal Government and State-owned Training Institutions to ensure proper funding of Residency Training in the country as stipulated by the Act.

Immediate payment of 2019, the balance of 2020 and 2021 Medical Residency Training Funds (MRTF) to our members including those under state government employ.

Immediate implementation of September 2017 Memorandum of Terms of Settlement (MOTOS) between NARD and the Federal Government of Nigeria in order to bring lasting peace to the health sector and curb the ongoing ugly trend of brain drain from the health sector.

Immediate review of the Act regulating Postgraduate Medical Training in Nigeria in line with International Best Practices to remove the unnecessary rigors in Residency Training in Nigeria, one of the factors attributed to brain drain in the health sector.

Immediate commencement of employment into all Government-owned hospitals to improve service delivery to Nigerians, enhance Residency Training, and curb the attendant brain drain in the health sector.

The union also demanded the reintroduction of medical super salary structure and specialist allowance for all Doctors as already approved for some other health workers.

The NARD NEC unanimously demanded the sack of the Registrar of MDCN for failure to demonstrate competence in the handling of the central placement of house officers.

According to the Association, the NEC reiterated its commitment to the smooth running of all tertiary institutions in the country and the provision of specialist healthcare to Nigerians but urge the Federal Government to urgently meet the above demands in order to avert this avoidable industrial action.

Meanwhile, the President of NARD has disclosed that the union had a meeting with the Minister for Labour and Employment from 4p.m. Wednesday till about 12a.m. this morning (Thursday).

“We insist that the implementation of what we wrote on the strike notice should be intimated immediately.

“We are not just doing this for resident doctors; we are doing this for all health workers … the government needs to be more responsible,” said Dr. Okhuaihesuyi.

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