Doctors give Federal gov’t two weeks strike notice

THE Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) has given the Federal government two weeks to address long-standing issues or face “industrial disharmony.”

NARD gave the warning in a communique it issued at the end of its extraordinary National Executive Council meeting on Saturday, April 29 in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

The president and secretary-general of the association, Orji Innocent and Chikezie Kelechi respectively, signed the communique.

The association condemned the “obnoxious bill” sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Ganiyu Johnson, which it said was seeking to restrict the freedom of its members.

It said the bill would end up escalating the health sector’s problems, including brain drain.

The communique read, “NEC observed that despite several engagements by NARD with the government on the need to upwardly review the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), which was last reviewed over ten years ago, the government has neither called NARD to the negotiation table nor taken any tangible step in addressing the issue. This is against the background of the dwindling economic situation in the country, the serial abysmal decline in the value of the naira, the imminent removal of fuel subsidy, and the consequent damaging effect on the cost of living in the country.

“NEC recalled that there have been previous ultimatums issued to the government by NARD on account of this problem of reviewing the CONMESS salary structure. NEC also reiterated that the previous collective bargaining agreement on CONMESS stated clearly that the salary structure would be due for review after five years, but this has not been done since the implementation in 2014, though the approval was given in 2009.”

The group expressed disappointment at the delay in the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) payment.

It also frowned at the alleged refusal by the government to pay the salary arrears of 2014/2015 and 2016 to its members, as well as the arrears of the consequential adjustment of minimum wage.

“NEC observed the infrastructural decay in the health sector, as well as the severe manpower shortage in the sector, noting that despite several requests by NARD, the government has still refused to provide, at least, 15 per cent budgetary allocation to the health sector as contained in the 2001 Abuja Declaration for the health care financing in Africa to which Nigeria is a signatory. NEC described the current 5.7 per cent allocation in the 2023 budget as laughable for a country claiming to be committed to safeguarding the health of her citizens and nipping the challenge of brain drain in the bud,” the document stated.

The doctors also warned state governments yet to implement the appropriate CONMESS structure, domesticate the Medical Residency Training Act, or improve the hazard allowance paid to their colleagues and other health workers to do so without delay.

As part of its resolutions, NARD demanded an immediate increment in the CONMESS salary structure to 200 per cent of the current gross salary for doctors.

It called for immediate suspension of the bill seeking to stop doctors from migrating abroad, asked the government to pay the 2023 Medical Resident Training Fund and begin paying all salary arrears, and consequential adjustment of the minimum wage owed its members from 2014.

Others are immediate massive recruitment of health professionals to replace workers who are leaving, infrastructural lift in health facilities, and increase in budgetary allocation to health.




     

     

    The group also demanded that state governments implement CONMESS MRTA and review hazard allowance and salary arrears, especially Abia state, which it said had been notorious for owing salaries.

    It said, “NEC resolved to issue the government a two-week ultimatum beginning today, 29th Sunday, April 2023, to resolve all these demands, following the expiration of which on the 13th May 2023, we may not be able to guarantee industrial harmony in the sector nationwide.”

    In 2021, The ICIR reported how disagreements between government doctors and other health workers led to the nation’s public hospitals losing nearly 300 days in eight years.

    NARD was on strike for several weeks in 2021 following unmet demands from the Federal government.

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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