FG, striking doctors talks end in deadlock

Nigeria’s government may have decided to wield the big stick against striking resident doctors after talks over their grievances deadlocked on Tuesday.

Government has ordered medical directors in all its hospitals to mark the attendance register for the doctors.

Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire agonised over the fact that Nigeria is the first country in the world where doctors went on strike during a global pandemic.

“The health of Nigerians is very important at this crucial time. We are ready to protect the lives of Nigerians, we are not going to allow our hospitals to fallow.

“The health of Nigerians are very important at this crucial time and the health workforce are essential services, We have pleaded and we have done everything to meet the demands that they have placed on the table.

“We at the Ministry of Health are ready to protect the lives of Nigerians, we are not going to allow our hospitals to fallow.

“The government has an obligation to support and keep the health every Nigerians.

“The resident doctors have told us that they are not returning to work very soon until certain conditions are met and they cannot keep extending the goal post any time they like,” he said.

He, therefore, said that certain steps needed to be taken, which involves issuing a directive to all Chief Medical Directors, directors of all Federal hospitals and institutions in the country to open up a register of attendance.

He said by Wednesday morning 7a.m, they should record all those that come to work and all those who do not come to work will be noted and further actions will be followed.

“Those who report to work will be taken as those who are still in service and the register will be closed at 12 noon and by then we will known who want to still be in service, ” he said.

The meeting between the Federal Government and the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) ended in deadlock on Tuesday.

NARD had embarked on nationwide strike on Monday to press home its demands for payment of hazard allowance, group life insurance, payment of minimum wage consequential adjustment, among others.

Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment during the meeting in Abuja noted that health workers are the essential frontline officers during the COVID-19 pandemic and have suffered great mishaps across the country.

He reeled out the various agreements reached with doctors and medical workers.

He said government has shown evidence on the payment of the hazard and inducements allowances.

“We have paid those allowances since last night and it was directly paid into the account of recipients. So, we are hopeful that between the IPPIS office and the Central Bank, that before 24 hours they would all be credited for April and May.

“The payment is not for only Resident Doctors, but also for consultants, nurses, pharmacists, physiologist, mortuary attendants, ICU centres, and all health care workers in COVID-19 designated hospitals and all Federal Medical Centres in designate states.

“We assumed that these issues have been solved because IPPIS have shown evidence.

“We have also agreed on matters that are in court, that we should step them down, so that we do not enter areas that are in the purviews of the court.

“Also, on the issue of group life insurance and the employee compensation, we have assured them that they have been paid and we told them they have no right to make claim for the resident doctors or any other health workers that must have had mishap in the cause of work resulting in death.

” For those who do not die or have mishap or accidents in the cause of their work but became incapacitated, they can always make claims through the Employee Compensation Act, which the Federal Government has already activated,” he said.

Ngige, who is also a medical doctor said the major issues have been take care.

He also said government has made appropriation appropriation for residence programme in the 2021 budget.

Dr Aliyu Sokomba, NARD President said that the resident doctors would call off their strike only when government comes up with tangible evidence of meeting the union’s demands.

He added that this is the only way that the strike can be called off within 24 hours.

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