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13.03.2024 Featured University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Yet to Pay Interns Hazard Allowances for 2022

Published 13th Mar, 2024

By Olayide Soaga

Some health workers who were interns at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) in 2022 have accused Professor Obinna Onodugo, the hospital’s chief medical director (CMD), of withholding their hazard allowances for their internship period.

FIJ learned that the federal government increased the hazard allowance for health workers, including interns, working at federal hospitals, medical centres and clinics nationwide in 2021. Before this, health workers earned a monthly hazard allowance of N5,000.

A hazard allowance is a wage supplement paid to workers who do dangerous jobs and are exposed to hazards at the workplace.

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Health workers are exposed to numerous risks. Doctors and nurses are at risk of contracting deadly diseases and infections while treating patients, and other health workers, like pharmacists, are exposed to laboratory chemicals and other hazards.

The amount paid as hazard allowance was increased from N5,000 to N32,000 and then N40,000 for doctors, while other health workers who previously earned N5,000 are to receive between N15,000 and N34,000. Interns and NYSC doctors are eligible for a hazard allowance of N32,000, according to the new scale.

Despite this development, the UNTH kept paying the interns the old hazard allowance of N5,000 instead of N32,000 but paid house officers (resident doctors) with the new plan.

This perturbs the former interns, who have been pleading with the CMD to pay the hazard allowance the hospital owes them.

Katherine (not real name), who now works as a pharmacist in Enugu, told FIJ that while an intern at UNTH, she and other interns were excited when they heard the government was increasing hazard allowances for health workers.

Her joy was, however, cut short when she and other interns continued receiving the old hazard allowance of N5,000.

She added that while interning, the senior workers would leave most of the job for interns, exposing them to more hazards.

“We were all happy when we heard that the federal government was increasing the hazard allowance. They even told us to prepare our list and write our names according to our departments. We submitted it, only for them to start telling us different things afterwards,” said Katherine.

She also told FIJ that resident doctors were paid the new hazard allowance and when they met with the CMD, he assured them they would be paid.

“We were hopeful. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. We completed our internship and continued our lives,” she said.

Aboi, who was also an intern at the hospital in 2021/2022, said the CMD told them the money allocated by the federal government for hazard allowances was not enough for everyone but assured them he would ensure they got paid whenever it was disbursed.

In October last year, a memo containing the names of hospitals that were omitted from the payment of the new hazard allowance was released, but the UNTH was not included in it.

“We have contacted the directors, the accountant and others, but they keep telling us stories as if we are children. The CMD tells us we can do whatever we like because he is not with our money. Who is with our money then?” Katherine asked.

FIJ contacted Prof. Onodugo, but he had not responded at press time. FIJ also contacted Uchelue Boniface, the hospital’s public relations officer, for comments.

Uchelue blamed the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for not paying interns’ hazard allowances.

“It is the responsibility of the IPPIS to pay salaries and emoluments of staff in ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government,” said Boniface.

He added that the federal government did not release money to cover the payment of the hazard allowance for those who worked at the hospital in 2021/2022.

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Published 13th Mar, 2024

By Olayide Soaga

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