After an eight-hour meeting with the Federal Government on Friday, the National Association of Resident Doctors may shelve its nine-day-old strike on Saturday (today).
It was learnt that the meeting, which started at past 3pm and ended around 11pm on Friday, received an update on the level of implementation of the Memorandum of Action earlier signed by both parties.
A source said the resident doctors agreed in principle to suspend the ongoing strike after the NARD officials expressed satisfaction with the level of implementation of their demands.
The NARD officials promised to meet with their members on Saturday noon to take a decision on the strike.
“The meeting was fruitful and the resident doctors expressed satisfaction with the level of implementation of their demands. So, they would be meeting their members by noon on Saturday to take a decision on the strike,” the source disclosed.
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had earlier said the FG had substantially met NARD’s seven-point demand and also demonstrated transparency in their implementation.
He said the House Officers had started receiving their payments in the Federal Government teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres across the federation.
“We have also abolished benching in training as well as stopped the deduction of N15,000 per month from the salaries of house doctors for accommodation. We directed the refund of the deductions and the entire money is now paid to the house doctors to negotiate with the local authorities and sort out individual accommodation,” the source added.
Also, after the closed-door meeting that lasted five hours, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Healthcare Services pleaded with the doctors to suspend their industrial action in the interest of the poor masses who cannot afford health services in private facilities.
The chairman of the committee, Tanko Sununu, while briefing journalists after the meeting, disclosed that the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, is to meet with NARD on Tuesday in the efforts by the lawmakers to resolve the dispute between the government and the doctors.
Sununu said, “It is a very contentious issue and it took long because we tried to address the issues one by one and we came out with some resolutions. One of the resolutions is that as of today, because there are so many infractions, we have decided to constitute three basic committees.
“One of the committee is to sort out the issue of House Officers and they are to commence work with immediate effect, and submit the authenticated list to the IPPIS (Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System) office within 24 hours so that payment of those who have been omitted would be done with immediate effect.
“The other committee is to be headed by a director in the Ministry of Labour (Employment and Productivity), with membership from Ministry of Health, NARD, IPPIS and Committee of CMDs (Chief Medical Directors) to look at all the infractions that were noticed, involving multiple payments and other issues; to also suggest punitive measures to be meted out to those who have acted wrongly. That would also have to commence work immediately and submit the report to the Federal Ministry of Health, to be copied to the committee for necessary actions to be taken.”
The lawmaker further said, “On the last committee, it was also realised from the presentation of the NARD that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria shot within its expectations, with the accusation of so many doctors registering and they have not been given their licences. Others were unable to access their licence and so other many accusations.
“The committee agreed to set up a committee that would forensically audit all the activities of the MDCN in the last five years to ensure that the capacity and the ability of the MDCN to carry out its mandate are ensured. So, that is the resolution.”
Sununu also said the committee resolved that the affected House Officers must be paid within the shortest possible time.
He said, “The NARD made it clear that in the last four months, the members of the association were wrongly paid to the tune of N308m and the money has been with the NARD. They have been following the necessary organs of government to ensure that the money is paid back into the government treasury, but the account was not given to them.
“At this meeting, we resolved and the account was forwarded to the President of NARD for onward transmission to members so that the money would be paid back to the government account.
“We also agreed that because 1,003 members of the NARD were not paid, the amount to be returned by over 500 resident doctors must also be paid directly to the members who have yet to be paid. The remaining 446 members of the association that were not paid for the National Post-Graduate College are to make a memo so that payment can be made.
“We also agreed that the overall budget for the Medical Residency Training Fund should be taken over by the assigned body, which is the National Post-Graduate Medical College, mandated by law to oversee the training of the resident doctors. They should be responsible for making the budget presentation on behalf of the resident doctors, so that they can be paid as and when due.”
Sununu, however, said the meeting did not agree on the issue of resident doctors on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System platform.
“We have not agreed on the date when they will be paid because there is a ministerial committee assigned by the Ministry of Finance (Budget and National Planning) on that. We are informed that the committee is almost done with its work and payment will be done,” he said.
Furthermore, the lawmaker said the stakeholders agreed that the Ministry of Health should review the hazard allowance of all health workers in Nigeria. He said a memorandum would be signed on Friday after another meeting with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity.
He said, “We all agreed that the review of hazard allowance should be done with immediate effect for all healthcare workers in the country. The N5,000 remains quite unacceptable but we have not agreed on any figure because we left it to the Ministry of Labour that has already initiated that discussion to continue with it.”
Sununu called on the doctors to suspend the strike, saying, “We are calling on the resident doctors to please consider Nigerians and to take note that all their grievances are being addressed. They should consider the plight of the common man who has nowhere to go because not every one of us can go to private hospitals. So, they should consider these Nigerians and call off the strike.
“Mr Speaker has made it clear that whatever the outcome, he is going to see the striking doctors on Tuesday.”