Resident doctors and house officers are flustered over the decision of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend the 10-day-old strike action without tangible commitment from the government about paying the salaries and allowances they are owed.
Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, National President of the NARD, told FIJ that the strike was suspended for four weeks to allow the government meet the demands. He added that the decision was taken based on interventions by Minister for Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by the Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Dr Tanko Sununu.
But NARD’s decision triggered agitated reactions from members of the association across the country. Distrusting the government, the medical workers believe that they would not be paid the monies they are owed.
“I am definitely not okay with the strike being called off when they have not paid us,” said a resident doctor who does not want to be named. “I am just tired of the whole thing. Our hearts are broken that the association just called off the strike like that and we don’t have anything tangible.”
A resident doctor at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, who asked to be identified as Dr Salami, told FIJ that although he believed that NARD executives did not betray members of the association, they did not negotiate hard enough to get the government to pay salary arrears.
“Most of us being owed are not in the right frame of mind to work. How do you manage the sick when you are actually sick?” Dr Salami asked.”Our work requires one to be in good mental and physical health. It’s unfortunate.”
At the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Emmanuel Ogar, a resident doctor, said that doctors’ dispositions towards the suspension of the strike was dependent on the different interests.
“We have for different interests: members on IPPIS platform are not happy that the strike was called off because they were expecting MRTF from the government; senior colleagues not part of the MRTF want hazard allowance increase from the Federal Government; resident on GIFMIS platform whant long-standing arrears from the federal government,” Ogar explained.
“So you call off the strike today, they go to their drawing board and this monies won’t be paid.”
In addition to agitations by the doctors about the monies they are owed is the the problem of information dissemination. Many of them complained that many hours after the strike was called of, they did not know details of the resolutions the NARD leadership agreed to.
Speaking to FIJ on Sunday, Dr Okhuaihesuyi said that the association could not compel the government to pay doctors who were on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) platform without verifying them.
The NARD president said that the GIFMIS platform, used to pay non-regular staff of the hospitals, was put on hold to allow the government investigate payment irregularities perpetrated on the platform.
“The GIFMIS has been abolished by law; this means that the non-regular employees should be re-employed by the hospital as full-time staff so that they can be enrolled into Integrated personnel and payroll information system (IPPIS),” he said.
When informed that many doctors across the country had not been verified by the IPPIS despite expressing interest in being verified, he said it was the chief medical directors of such institutions that should be blamed.
“So they have to be verified by this system and the budget office and that is what we tell them. They want us to keep the strike on because they have not been paid and because they don’t want to be verified?” Dr Okhuaihesuyi asked.
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