Two weeks after house officers (also called medical interns) in federal medical institutions across the country were assured that they would be paid the three months salaries they were owed, a few doctors have been indeed been paid but hundreds have not — because of a list that was not updated for three years.
The issue boiled over early this week, when house officers at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital (JUTH) protested over non-payment of three months salaries. Carrying placards with different inscriptions, the young doctors stood by the main entrance to the hospital, chanting songs. Only 24 of 50 house officers in JUTH had been paid; 26 others do not know why they have not been paid by the federal government.
“They are threatening us,” one protester at JUTH, Afrah Mohammed, wrote on Twitter.
“They are telling us that we are embarrassing the hospital management. They are telling us that we are embarrassing the profession. They are saying we should have discussed. They are saying we are wrong for coming out to the streets.”
The President of the Association of Resident Doctors in JUTH, Dr Nalda Nanton, said he was not given prior notice of the demonstration by the house officers. While he noted that it was not only JUTH medical interns that had not been paid in the country, he could not give specific reasons why the young doctors in his chapters had not been paid.
“This is a national issue, the impact of any protest or industrial action will be better felt if we go on it as a national body,” Nanton stated. “I appeal to them to give us more time since we have been able to withstand this hardship from January to this time, let’s wait till the end of this month when the ultimatum will expire.”
FIJ had reported that the salaries of house officers in the country were delayed because the responsibility of paying the doctors which was initially on the hospitals was handed to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).
Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, President of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), told FIJ that some house officers in 19 medical institutions, including JUTH, had been paid but added that some house officers were not paid because a quota list which is not up-to-date was used.
“They paid according to the quota registered for the institution not according to the house officers that are at the institutions,” Dr Uyilawa said.
“And this is a problem we have been having with the MDCN. The MDCN has not updated their quotas to different hospitals, so they are using the quotas they have in their office to pay the house officers and left the other ones not paid.”
“If NARD goes on strike, the blood of Nigerians will be on the head of Sanusi, the registrar of MDCN, because he is sitting down there and letting people suffer.”
But Dr Sanusi denied that the MDCN was the reason house officers had not been paid. He revealed that the teaching hospitals ignored calls to renew their accreditation status three years ago.
“We have quotas allotted to each of these institutions. In 2018, we wrote to all the training institutions revalidate their accreditation status for the training of house officers, they ignored us,” the MDCN Registrar told FIJ.
“We did not know that this thing will take off now because as at then, in anticipation that some of them (teaching hospitals and medical centres) may have the capacity to train more than what they have at that time, that was why we wrote to them which nothing was done up till now.”
He explained that the Council plays a regulatory role; it vets to ensure that only intern doctors were included on the list.
“In 2020, when the budget office asked us for the quota allotted to each of the training hospitals we gave them what we had in our records; so what do they mean by its not up-to-date? Everything has procedures,” Dr Sanusi said
“We cannot just increase the quota arbitrarily. Depending on when they respond, then we update and send to the office of the Accountant-General.”
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