In a bid to forestall the planned strike by resident doctors, the Federal Government has met with the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and assured them that their demands will be met and implemented.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, communicated the government’s stance to the doctors on Wednesday, a day before the planned strike is scheduled to commence.
The doctors, under the aegis of NARD, threatened to begin industrial action on Thursday, 1 April, over their various demands they made to the Federal Government.
Speaking shortly before going into a closed-door session, Ngige said the Federal Government and the resident doctors were working closely with regards to the demands of the doctors.
According to the minister, the Federal Government and other arms of government have been working round the clock to resolve the situation.
He said: “Addressing your problem is the right thing to do. Government should do the right thing; you don’t need any stick or prodding or push or threat of strike for us to do the right thing.
“I have read your complaints and I have communicated them to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance and as a matter of fact, last week, we held a government side meeting on all the issues. That is why things are where we are now, because we have started solving those problems.
“We put up proposals with even timelines on how to deal with them. We will now look at those proposals with you, fix adequate timelines so that the people on the government side will be implementing and marking them as they execute them.
“I have held informal meetings with the finance people and from what they told me which they will present here today, they have started solving some of the problems, so, I am happy about that.’’
Ngige, however, pleaded with the doctors to reconsider the timing of their strike, noting that the country is facing a health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “The National Assembly two committees have also tried to get you and your employers on the same page. We are not your employers here, we are conciliators. You come here when things are broken down, dialogue has broken down and in this case dialogue has broken down because it’s a money issue, it is an economic issue, so we now have to intervene to maintain industrial peace in the health industry.”
“You know as well as I do that we are in a very bad period health-wise, the world over and Nigeria is not an exception. So, we have to think about the generality of Nigerians because right now, 80 per cent of Nigerians are our potential patients because of the COVID pandemic so we have to look at the issue that way and see how we can get the best out of this situation.”
Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, President of NARD, said it is a trying time for resident doctors in the country and expressed hope that the meeting would help actualise a concrete resolution to the crisis.
He said, “It has been a trying time for Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors and the health sector generally and that is why we have tried to make ways in trying to improve and build upon in the health system and I hope in this meeting will be able to achieve plenty of things to help improve our health statistics, help improve the welfare of doctors and help our service delivered to patients on time.
“And I hope with the Honourable Minister of Labour and Minister of Health, we will be able to get lasting solutions to all our demands after the meeting.”
The resident doctors are, among other things, demanding 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, 2021; payment of all salary arrears including March salaries for NARD members in all Federal and State tertiary health institutions across the country and 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.