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NARD Strike: Government assures negotiations with doctors in progress

Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment

*The Federal Ministry of Health laments the situation with the resident doctors’ strike is of concern to the Nigerian Government, disclosing that negotiations have been ongoing to resolve the industrial dispute ‘as quickly as possible’

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As the five-day warning strike embarked upon by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) continues, the Federal Government has said negotiations are ongoing with the stakeholders to resolve the outstanding industrial dispute.

Dr. Morenike Alex-Okoh, Director of Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, told reporters Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Abuja, FCT, that the strike is of concern to the Nigerian Government.

Alex-Okoh said: “The situation with the doctors’ strike is of concern to government and the negotiations have been ongoing.

“We will continue under the circumstances, so, I cannot give you any conclusive response now.”

She also stated: “However, government, the leadership of the ministry and relevant stakeholders are meeting to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

It is recalled that NARD served notice on the Federal Government Tuesday, warning that it could not guarantee further industrial harmony should government fail to address issues raised before May 29, 2023.

The Association noted this  in its letter to the government, titled: “Notice of Strike Action’’, jointly signed by National President, Dr. Innocent Orji and Secretary-General, Dr. Chikezie Kelechi.

The medical doctors stated that NARD had issued a two-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to resolve issues, as contained in the ultimatum before its expiration May 13.

The letter letter noted in part: “Regrettably, the issues have remained unresolved despite several attempts by NARD to get government to resolve them.

“Rising from her Extra-Ordinary Meeting on Monday, May 15, NARD’s National Executive Council resolved to embark on a five-day warning strike beginning on May 17.’’

NARD’s demands

ConsumerConnect reports the doctors are demanding an immediate increment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure to the tune of 200 percent of current gross salaries of doctors.

The medical professionals  are also request the immediate withdrawal of the Bill seeking to compel medical and dental graduates to serve compulsorily, in Nigeria, for five years before getting full licences to practise.

The Association equally demands the immediate domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act and a review of Hazard Allowance by state governments.

Government’s plea for doctors to shelve strike

Earlier, Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment, Tuesday, May 16 had disclosed the Federal Government’s warning to the resident doctors to shelve their strike.

Olajide Oshundun, Director of Press and Public Relations in the Ministry stated the Minister issued the warning shortly after receiving a letter of notification from the NARD Executive on the planned strike.

According to Oshundun, Ngige said the planned strike was “illegal”.

The statement also said: “There is nothing like warning strike. A strike is a strike.

“If they want to take that risk, the options are there.

“They have the right to strike. You cannot deny them that right.”

The Minister further stated: “Their employer has another right under Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, however, to withhold their pay for those five days.

“If the NARD has strike funds to pay its members for those five days, no problem.

“The Health Minister will instruct teaching hospitals to employ ad-hoc people for those five days and use the money of the people who went on strike to pay the ad-hoc doctors.”

Ngige, however, advised the doctors to avail themselves of the opportunity of dialogue with their employers, rather than embarking on warning strike, which he noted is unknown to the law.

Issuing threats will worsen the problem, says NARD

Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria on the strike situation, Dr. Orji, President of NARD, said that members were still awaiting the Federal Government’s call for negotiations.

He said: “I am still in my hotel room now, and I have not received any call to come to the table to discuss the strike.

“We also heard that government is planning a `no work, no pay’ strategy, but our position is that it should resolve issues raised because that is the only way to avoid escalation.”

The NARD President warned that “issuing threats will definitely worsen the problem.

“If no work no pay is implemented, our members will determine how we will handle it.”

He also explained that “going by that route will escalate the problem because it means that government is not ready to address the issues we have raised and will rather give punitive measures.

“Our members will decide and give us further directives, but no one should blame us if they decide to escalate the strike.”

Meanwhile, a visit to Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja, indicated that doctors were attending to patients, according to report.

Dr. Chidi Nnabuchi, former Head of Clinical Services was quoted to have said that the hospital would not shut down, but would operate based on available capacity.

Nnabuchi said the emergency care would be offered where necessary, but could not ascertain if patients would be placed on admission.

Number of out-patients seeking attention would also be reduced.

According to him, this would be so because only medical consultants, NYSC and in-house doctors would be attending to patients.

“We have few doctors that are corps members; they are not part of the strike. Some others are on local employment.

“They are on the ground to handle emergencies and treat patients in the wards,” Nnabuchi stated.

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