The rays of protest summoned by the National Association of Resident Doctors might loose its intensity today (Thursday) as an agreement has been reached between the association and the Federal Government on Wednesday.
The association was expected to consult with its Executive Council with a view to calling off the strike within 24 hours of the agreement with the government.
The physicians had embarked on an industrial action on September 7 over government’s inability to meet their demands, including insurance package, payment of the outstanding COVID-19 allowance as well as the payment of medical residency training fund.
However, in a communique issued at the end of a marathon conciliation meeting presided over by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in Abuja, the parties agreed that the COVID-19 isolation centres now had sufficient provision of Personal Protective Equipment.
The FG and NARD also agreed on the provision of group life insurance for doctors and other healthcare workers and payment of death-in-service benefit to next-of-kin/beneficiaries.
The meeting noted that the FG had paid N9.3bn to insurance companies for Life Group Insurance and payment of death benefits for health workers, adding that enrolment was by the submission of nominal rolls by the various health institutions, which NARD had been mandated at a previous meeting to accomplish.
The communique read in part, “Noting that the 2020 Appropriation Act was revised due to COVID-19 pandemic, the N4b appropriated for residency training under a wrong heading for Medical Residency Training is to be vired before expenditure.
“The process of amendment is, therefore, ongoing and is expected that this process and cash- backing will be through in two weeks.”
The communique was co-signed by Ngige; the Minister of State, Labour, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of State, Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora; the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; NARD President, Dr Sokomba Aliyu, and others.
On the payment of outstanding 2014, 2015, and 2016 arrears, the meeting recalled that it had been agreed that the issue would be further discussed post-COVID-19; therefore, no agreement was breached.
It was further agreed that discussions for review of a Permanent Hazard Allowance for all health workers would commence as soon as possible after consultations by the Minister of Labour and Employment with all stakeholders in the health sector.
“In view of these understandings, NARD will consult with her Executive Council within the next 24 hours with a view to calling off the strike by September 10, 2020.
“Nobody will be victimized for any activity connected with or for participating in the industrial action,” the communique noted.
Earlier, the labour minister had flayed the striking doctors, describing their strike as “unwarranted, illegal, and badly timed.”
Ngige noted that the association had gone on strike twice, even while negotiations were ongoing.
Although the minister acknowledged that certain demands of the association had yet to be met, he said the government had fulfilled six out of their eight demands.
On his part, Mamora appealed to the association to show understanding within the context of the situation in the country.
Responding, the President of the Nigeria Medical Association, Prof Innocent Ujah, had apologised to the Federal Government and blamed the intense outcry by the association on “the pressure of the moment and the knowledge of a widespread danger and risk encountered by health care workers across the country.”
In the same vein, the NARD President, Aliyu Sokomba, apologised for the misunderstanding and misconception of the grievances of the association by the government.
Also on Wednesday before the meeting, the Federal Government had directed the Chief Medical Directors and Managing Directors of federal tertiary hospitals to immediately commence the use of Consultants and Doctors on National Youth Service Corps to provide routine services.
The government also directed that locum staffers should “be brought in when and where necessary to forestall services disruption when applicable and affordable.”
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, gave the directive in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday.
Source: The PUNCH