NARD shuns Ehanire, Ngige’s pleas
Health workers to down tools Sept 14
Patients were yesterday stranded in hospitals across the country as resident doctors embarked on strike.
The doctors under the auspices of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had on Friday declared an indefinite strike following government’s failure to meet their demands after the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum. However, the NARD decision is already affecting healthcare seekers who were forced to leave for home when they couldn’t get medical attention.
At the National Hospital and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital only a few consultants were on ground offering skeletal services at the accident and emergency wing.
Although patients were still in the wards and being attended to, there were fears that today might turn out differently. In Plateau, over 500 resident doctors at JUTH joined the strike. Investigations at LUTH, Idi-Araba, Lagos, showed that only emergency skeletal services provided by consultants were going on. Most of the few patients that sought care were turned back and given new appointments.
They were told that they could not be attended to because of the ongoing strike. When New Telegraph visited the Dental Clinic in LUTH, there were no resident doctors working. The few patients that came there for oral care were also not attended to.
The same situation was observed in some clinics in LUTH including Chest Clinic, Eye Clinic, and the Cardiology Clinic. A patient, who sought care at the Dental Clinic, told New Telegraph that she was told that she could not be attended to because of the strike.
The NARD President, Aliyu Sokomba, said medics treating virus cases would be part of the strike. “There will be no exemptions,” he said. NARD represents about 40 per cent of doctors in the country. The doctors embarked on the strike following Federal Government’s inability to meet the union’s demands which include increase in salary, better working conditions, inadequate facilities, provision of life insurance, etc.
While accusing the Federal Government of failing to procure group life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers, the NARD noted that though an agreement had been reached between the government and stakeholders in the health sector to pay COVID-19 inducement allowance for six months (April to September), payment was only commenced for April, May and June in some institutions but the process was abandoned.
The association also demanded payment of the medical residency training funding to all its members as approved in the revised 2020 budget; provision of genuine group life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers; payment of the outstanding April, May and June COVID-19 inducement allowance to all health workers and determination of the revised hazard allowance for all health workers as agreed in previous meetings with relevant stakeholders.
Others are immediate payment of the salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015 and 2016 and payment of all arrears owed members in federal and state tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage.
Also, doctors working under the various tertiary health institutions were asked to be placed on appropriate salary grade level and universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017 in all tertiary health institutions.
NARD said despite the inclusion of the residency funding in the revised 2020 budget, the government had not made plans to implement the payment despite several promises by several stakeholders. Meanwhile, resident doctors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos and Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) joined the strike yesterday, in full compliance to the directive by NARD. Sokomba told New Telegraph that all resident doctors nationwide complied fully as directed by the NARD congress.
The NARD president, however, said the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and his Ministry of Labour counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige, had put telephone calls through to the association, appealing to the doctors to return to work. He said: “The strike is on and there is full compliance at both federal and state hospitals.
“There is appeal that we should return to work by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour.” But Sokomba said the association rejected the appeal and had informed both ministers that NARD had been on this issue with the Federal Government for over 10 months.
The Chairman, NARD JUTH chapter, Dr. Stephen Lukden, told New Telegraph in Jos yesterday that resident doctors in the hospital had no choice but to join the strike. Meanwhile, the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) has vowed to commence nationwide warning strike over Federal Government’s failure to meet the union’s outstanding demands with effect from September 13.
Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, the JOHESU Chairman, said this during a news conference in Abuja on Monday. Josiah listed the alleged shortchanging of the union in the payment of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance (SIHA) to frontline health workers, as part of the union’s demands.
“It becomes imperative to inform you that if the Federal Government does not meet these demands by midnight of September 13, JOHESU will have no choice than to commence a nationwide seven-day warning strike.
“The strike will include our members in all the Federal Health Institutions (FHIs), states and local government health institutions,” Josiah said.
According to him, JOHESU is forced to draw attention to the deliberate short-changing of our members in the payment of COVID- 19 inducement allowances.