A team of Federal Government officials will on Wednesday (today) meet with the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors to avert the strike already declared by the medical practitioners to commence on Thursday (tomorrow).
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and the spokesman for the ministry, Mr Charles Akpan, disclosed this in separate interviews with our correspondents on Wednesday.
Ahead of today’s meeting, it was learnt that officials of both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour and Employment had been meeting members of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors and a team of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria to avert the strike.
The NARD had on Sunday called on its members to commence what it called “a total and indefinite strike” on Thursday by 8am if the Federal Government refuses to accede to its demands.
Ngige in the interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday said, “I was in a meeting with the government’s side, the Ministry of Health, the Committee of CMDs and the Registrar of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
“We are meeting with NARD leadership tomorrow (today). A lot of things have been put in motion to address their concerns.
“For example, on the issue of house officers, I expect that by today, those outside the payroll of MDCN, we agreed that we start that payment while we do our matching of the nominal roll and approved pay roll which the MDCN claimed was overshot.”
When asked if he was convinced that the last-minute meeting was capable of stopping the resident doctors from proceeding with the strike, the minister replied, “Yes, why not? Because a lot of the issues have been settled from what I saw. It is work in progress.
“We are going to treat all, not only the ones that involve NARD. There are some issues that involve the NMA (Nigerian Medical Association) as a bigger body and JOHESU (Joint Health Workers Union of Nigeria). So, we are going to take those ones after this.”
Also the ministry spokesman, Akpan, said Ngige would meet with the doctors at 3pm on Wednesday.
But the NARD President, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, in an interview with THE PUNCH, said, “NARD and her members had at each time in the spirit of patriotism, shown uncommon understanding and extreme patience in the face of poor working conditions.
“Nigerian doctors currently have about the worst remuneration across the world and this has only worsened in recent time.
“The paltry $10 monthly hazard allowance a year after a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Federal Government has yet to be reviewed.
“Currently, well over 2,500 of our members are owed salaries ranging from three to five months even as they contended with the triple outbreaks of Yellow fever, Lassa fever and COVID – 19 pandemic, among others.”
On the Wednesday’s meeting, he said, “The Nigeria Association Of Resident Doctors have received letters of invitation from the Senate Committee on Health chairman and the Honourable Minister for Labour. NARD would be attending this scheduled meeting on finding a way forward.”
Among others, the doctors are demanding payment of salaries owed house officers and upward review of the hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID – 19 inducement allowance especially in state owned-tertiary Institutions.