DOCTORS in Ondo State have begun to resign their appointment over salary cuts and a backlog of unpaid wages, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) disclosed on Friday.
The state chapter of the association said in a statement signed by its president and secretary, Stella Adegbehingbe and Olorunfemi Owa, respectively, that the state health sector was bedevilled by diverse challenges that begged for government urgent attention.
The recent comment by the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, in a video seen by our reporter, asking ‘whether doctors have two heads’ to give them the audacity to demand payment of their full salaries was disparaging to the medical profession, NMA said.
Ondo State government pays a percentage of salaries of its workforce, as agreed with the state by the Joint Negotiating Council, comprising representatives of government and the Nigerian Labour Congress.
The policy has been on since the emergence of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
NMA said it did not agree with the decision and asked for a 100 per cent payment of salaries for its members.
“Regrettably, Mr. Governor elected to irritably disregard basic obligations of government to her citizens. He has chosen to blame victims of government’s indebtedness for the inability of the same government to perform its duties.
“His government demands that her workers should work on credit, while gratefully accepting less than their due wages, along with insults, packaged as an admonition,” the doctors said.
The association alleged that all efforts it had made to meet the governor had been futile.
It said the last salary paid to workers in the state, including its members, was for the month of February. The salary was paid this week, the NMA alleged.
According to the group, general hospitals in the state have two doctors each.
About 50 doctors resigned from the services of the Hospital Management Board in the state in the past few months without replacement.
105 doctors have resigned from the state Teaching Hospital in the last one year, the group said.
It also said only three house officers were left in the service of the state.
Besides, the association said following mass resignation among the University of Medical Science Teaching Hospital staff in the state, the institution was about to lose some of its accredited programmes.
The doctors accused the state government of refusing to pay the third tranche of COVID-19 palliative allowance, which the government promised to pay its health workers at the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Meanwhile, the group’s secretary, Olorunfemi Owa told our reporter that his group had not decided to embark on strike, should the government fail to meet its demands.
Ondo state health sector received global commendation during the administration of Olusegun Mimiko, the immediate past governor of the state.
His Safe Motherhood programme tagged the “Abiye Initiative” attracted World Bank’s attention, making the bank to recommend the initiative for Africa health systems.
The state also became a reference point for health systems in Nigeria by the World Health Organization and other development bodies.
The ICIR reports that the Safe Motherhood initiative, which made health services free for pregnant mothers and children up to age five has not been free for people of the state since the Akeredolu government took over power.
Efforts to get the reaction from the state government to NMA’s allegations by our reporter proved abortive.
When contacted on the telephone Saturday morning, Commissioner for Information in the state, Donald Ojogo abused our reporter.
Ojogo said he was not aware of the issues raised by the doctors, and our reporter offered to explain them to him.
“Please, leave their statement the way they have issued it. We have no response yet. I have no response to give you,” the commissioner said.”
“But, are you aware of the issues, sir?, our reported asked him.
He responded: “I’m not aware of what you’re saying.”
“Can I tell you some of them?, The ICIR reporter requested.
He retorted: “I said I’m not aware. You can’t tell me.”
Ojogo then went on to tell the reporter that he “was a fraudster, a fake and financially-beholding journalist” among other names.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in the state, Aladeola Foluke told our reporter that she had not heard anything from the association.
“I have a very cordial relationship with NMA. I don’t know anything about what they are saying,” she said.
Commissioner for Finance in the state, Adewale Akinterinwa, did not pick the calls put across to him. He did not also respond to text messages sent to his phone number.
Governor Akeredolu works with only four commissioners and a few aides since his inauguration for a second term in office in February.
They are Works, Information, Finance and Justice commissioners.