Following a virtual meeting of the National Executive Council NEC), the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) voted to continue its one week ongoing strike, which started on April 1.
In a communique issued after the meeting, the NEC observed that the Federal Government was insincere in its approach in dealing with the strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had earlier in the week said on Channels that if the striking doctors “become recalcitrant, there are other things I can do”.
“There are weapons in the labour laws, I will invoke them,” he said. “There is no work, no pay. Their employers have a role to keep their business afloat, keep patients alive. They can employ locum doctors.”
On Thursday, NARD President, Dr. Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, told FIJ: “It is not the first time that apart from ‘no work, no pay’ that we have even been sacked. We were sacked by Prof. Chukwu, then, when he was health minister. We were sacked by Prof. Adewole. His own (Ngige’s) threat won’t be the first threat we are having.
“Before now, we had already sent a message to the doctors that if you need to go and borrow or save money, that you should borrow and save money but we must prepare ourselves mentally, physically and financially because we don’t know when they (government) will own up to their responsibilities and we are ready to go all the way.”
The Federal Government had faulted the rejection of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) by NARD which was signed on March 31. In their meeting, NEC observed that the MoA was signed at 12 midnight on March 31, when the ultimatum given to the government had elapsed and the strike had already kicked off. The two months ultimatum given to the government before the industrial action by NARD was not met by the government.
Dr Uyilawa told FIJ that 1,824 doctors were affected by confirmed cases of Covid-19. Part of the demands by the doctors include an upward review of the N5,000 hazard allowance, payment of Death in Service Insurance for all health workers who died due to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, immediate payment of four months salaries owed to house officers and those in federal and state Ttertiary health institutions.
“You cannot be owing a junior colleague an allowance for four months and say we should go and call off the strike. They are now making mistakes and paying people twice, where are the checks and balances?”
In 2018, the budget allocation to health stood at 4%, slightly lower than the 4.526 per cent allocated in the 2021 budget. Uyilawa questioned if the health budget was really being used in the health sector.
The demand by the doctors comes at a time when the President, Muhammadu Buhari, flew to the United Kingdom for medical treatment.
Uyilawa asked that Nigerians see the truth in their demands and hold the government more responsible to the health of Nigerians.
“If they are more responsible, we can curb medical tourism,” he said. “If they are more responsible we can make the health system work.”
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