Despite interventions from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike.
NARD President, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, while addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, stated that strike is binding on all resident doctors, medical officers below the rank of Principal Medical Officer (PMO), and House Officers across all the Federal and State Hospitals in Nigeria.
He however noted that the union had decided to exempt its members working in various coronavirus (COVID-19) isolation and treatment centres across the country, for the first 2 weeks after which they will join the industrial action.
According to Sokomba, the exemption was made in recognition of the intervention of Hon. Tanko Sanunu, Chairman House Committee on Health Services, other stakeholders and a demonstration of NARD goodwill to the country.
NAN reports that the union had reached this decision at a virtual extra-ordinary National Executive Council meeting of the association held on Sunday to review the 14-days ultimatum earlier issued.
Sokomba noted that despite series of meetings between the doctors and the Federal Government in the last two weeks, several issues remained unresolved.
Some of these issues according to him include non-payment of special allowances for the resident doctors, the deplorable state of hospitals and the lack of protective equipment for members of the union treating COVID-19 patients leading to the death of some doctors in recent times.
The doctors are also asking for universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all Federal and State Hospitals and ensuring pay parity among doctors of equal cadre, provision of funding of medical residency training in the 2021 appropriation bill, as well as the implementation of the revised hazard and payment of agreed COVID-19 inducement allowances.
“Immediate implementation of the revised hazard allowance and payment of the COVID-19 inducement allowance agreed with the government and healthcare workers three months ago.
“Stoppage and immediate refund of all illegal, unjust and callous cut in salaries of our members by Kaduna State and other state governments,” Sokomba said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Gbajabiamila had expressed surprise over their insistence on the industrial action, after what he described as a successful meeting between the union, the two ministers manning the Ministry of Health, and stakeholders from the National Assembly by last Tuesday.
He noted that efforts had already been put in place to meet their demands, as the sum of N4 billion was approved by the House on Wednesday and confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, for the commencement of funding of residency programme as provided for by the Medical Residency Training Act.
On the issue of a template for implementation, Gbajabiamila directed that an emergency meeting with the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission be held on Monday, June 15, to produce a template within the next 48 hours.
He had also promised that the House would come up with a law to back the payment of hazard allowance and define the same for clarity. He assured them at the meeting that the resident doctors’ training would be captured in the 2021 budget whether or not it is included by the Executive in the ministry’s budget.
With the steps taken, the Speaker had appealed to the union to stay the action for a while as the government speeds up the process of meeting their demands.
His appeal notwithstanding, the union commenced the indefinite strike by midnight of Monday, June 15.