Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has intervened in the ongoing industrial action by members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
The NARD declared the strike action on July 30 at its National Executive Council meeting with the theme ‘The Nigerian doctor, an endangered species: grappling with a pandemic, poor workplace infrastructure and security threats.’
Announcing the action would begin on August 2 after the meeting held in Umuahia, Abia State, the National President of NARD, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, had cited the failure of the Federal Government to implement the agreements it entered into with the union 113 days after it suspended the previous strike.
However, 33 days after the commencement of the strike, Osinbajo reached out to the doctors in a bid to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
THE PUNCH gathered that the vice president had a zoom meeting with one of the officials of the doctors’ association on Friday where issues relating to the strike were discussed.
Sources that were privy to the meeting revealed that Osinbajo asked for details of the grievances of the striking doctors.
“He reached out to us and told us he needed all the details of our grievances and that he would not want us to end the strike and commence another later in the future,” a source close to the meeting said.
When contacted, the Vice President of NARD, Adejo Arome, confirmed that the vice president had a zoom meeting with an official of the association on Friday.
According to Arome, while reaching out to the association, the Vice President said he needed first-hand information on the issues involved.
He said, “Vice President Osinbajo reached out to us. He met with the President yesterday (Friday). It was actually a zoom meeting he had with our president ( Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi) though some of us were there. He (Osinbajo) initiated the meeting because he wanted to get the information about what was going on.
“He said he needed details of everything that happened. He asked calmly and we believe that he would do something and we also believe that very soon, he would call us officially (for a meeting).
“We gave him the information (that he requested). The information we gave him was first-hand and authentic. We are sure other government officials won’t give him such details at all about the whole issue.
“He told us that he did not want the issue to be resolved now and later there would be another strike.
“He said he wants to put the problem to rest once and for all. We are waiting for him to invite us officially and we are certain that he is going to do it. We trust his judgement.”
FG yet to reach out, 21 days’ notice stands -NMA
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association said the Federal Government has yet to reach out to the association.
Notwithstanding, the association stated that the 21-day strike notice it issued to the Federal Government stands regardless.
The association’s General Secretary, Dr Philips Ekpe, disclosed this in an interview with Sunday PUNCH in Abuja.
According to him, the notice period was to enable the Federal Government to attend to the lingering issues with the NMA’s affiliate members.
He said, “The 21-day notice was to give the government time to meet the demands of our affiliate members such as NARD, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and Medical and Dental Specialist Association in Basic Medical Sciences.
“Apparently, nothing has been forthcoming as they have not reached out to us and even NARD and as you are aware, the matter with NARD is still in the court of law.
“Once government cooperates and attends to the demands of NARD and the other affiliates, then there won’t be any problem.
“But at the end of the ultimatum, if things don’t meet our expectations, the National Executive Council of our association will take decisions.
“On the issues of the salary of resident doctors that was withheld, we are working behind closed doors to make sure that things are resolved.”
Recall that the NMA had on August 28 issued a 21-day strike notice to the Federal Government, with effect from Monday, August 30.
At the end of its National Executive Council meeting held in Benin City, Edo State, the NMA and all its affiliates resolved to give the Federal Government 21-day notice to fully resolve all the issues contained in the various agreements signed with the doctors.
JOHESU, AHPA issue 15-day ultimatum
While the Federal Government is still battling to resolve the ongoing strike action by the Resident Doctors, members of the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Association have threatened to embark on an industrial action in 15 days’ time if the government fails to meet their demands.
JOHESU’s National President, Mr Biobelemonye Josiah, gave the ultimatum in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and other relevant stakeholders.
Copy of the letter was made available to journalists on Saturday in Abuja.
Josiah said that the 15-day ultimatum was necessitated by the nonchalant attitude of the government to the plight of his members.
Josiah said his association and APHA are demanding an adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure since 2014; payment of all withheld April and May 2018 Salaries of members and withheld Salaries in Federal Medical Center, Owerri, Jos University Hospital and Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
Others include the review of the defective implementation of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance; implementation of National Industrial Court of Nigeria Alternative Dispute Resolution, Consent judgment and other court judgments; increase in retirement age from 60 to 65 years for health workers and 70 years for Consultant Health Professionals.
“Others are payment of reviewed hazard allowance in terms of payment that guarantees fairness and justice to all concerned, payment of actual 30 per cent consolidated basic shift duty allowance to Nurses/Midwives and others.
”Payment of teaching allowance to members on CONHESS 7 and 8 (nurses, midwives and others) and proper placement of Nurse Graduates and Interns,” he said.
He added that their demands also include payment of outstanding salaries of intern health professionals and all the Tertiary Health Institutions, proper implementation of the consultant pharmacist cadre for pharmacists in the public sector, among others.
According to him, “the Federal Government has not deemed it fit to honour the Terms of Settlement entered into with JOHESU since September 2017.
“This is especially the upward review of CONHESS Salary Structure as agreed, to be completed within five weeks from the date of agreement amongst other requests. The Government did not deem it fit to address these key issues during the duration of the last seven days warning strike and has only met with JOHESU on July 12,” he said.
“In July 2020, the Minister of Health agreed that a mistake was made by government in the payment of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowances. He noted that the shortfall was in the payment of 50 per cent Basic of Consolidated allowances to all Health Workers. It was a mistake on the part of government and the shortfall shall be paid accordingly to affected health workers.”
1,851 Nigerian-trained doctors get US licences in five years – Medical Board
No fewer than 1,851 Nigerian-trained medical doctors acquired a total of 3,649 licences to be able to practise in the United States of America in five years, investigations by Sunday PUNCH have revealed
It was also gathered that physicians in the US could acquire multiple licences which would allow them to practice in the country and other territories.
Our correspondent learnt that one of the reasons why physicians were leaving Nigeria was that they were not allowed to acquire multiple licences which could enable them to practise in various fields.
The Vice President, Communications, Federation of State Medical Board in the United States, Joe Knickrehm, confirmed that more Nigerians were actually trooping to the US to practice.
He further disclosed in an email exchange with our correspondent, that physicians in the US could acquire multiple licences which would allow them to practice in the US and other territories.
The mail partly read, “Physicians can have multiple licences to practise medicine in the United States if they wish to practise in multiple states or US territories.
“Between 2015 and 2020, a total of 1,851 Nigeria-educated physicians have been issued with a total of 3,649 licences. 75 per cent of these physicians, who were issued licences between these periods that is 1,388, are actively practising in the US.
“As of 2020, 3,895 Nigeria-educated physicians with a total of 6,536 full active licences are practicing in the US.”
President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, however, said one of the reasons why physicians were eager to leave Nigeria was that they were not allowed to acquire multiple licences which could enable them to practise in various fields.
He said, “In Nigeria, there is no such thing; you cannot have multiple licences. You are only entitled to one licence.
“This is one of the reasons why you see doctors leaving the country. When you visit these other countries, you can acquire medical licences to practise in other fields.”