Strike continues as talks between Anambra govt, doctors collapse
THE Association of Resident Doctors of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH) Amaku Awka, Anambra State, says the indefinite strike action embarked upon by members of the association will continue.
Obinna Anigbaoso, President of the association, told The ICIR that a meeting between the association and Governor Willie Obiano on May 16, did not yield the desired results.
Anigbaoso said some of the issues raised by the association during the meeting with Governor Obiano include the partial payment of doctors and the denial of service training to qualified medical personnel, among many others.
“We met with the governor on Thursday (May 16), he wanted to know our challenges and we made our challenges known to him, which were partial salary payment to doctors as we get 40% of the full salary, contrary to what others are paid,” Anigbaoso said.
“The governor expressed empathy, in terms of the partial payment facing doctors. He told us he is aware that doctors and even other workers earn badly, that the pay is poor, and that he is concerned.
“He claimed that if he had the fund, he would try to pay everybody the commensurate salary but he has some limitation. He said the current expenditure was on the high side, and the government is having challenges increasing the IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) due to debt and embezzlement.
“He said the IGR hasn’t come to the level that he would want, and at the implementation of the new minimum wage the current expenditure would come up some more.
“He said once they implement the new minimum wage and its guidelines are out, he would add N12, 000 for all civil servants in state since the minimum wage has come up from N18,000 to N30,000”.
Anigbaoso said the governor promised to revisit the doctors’ case after a year, hoping that the IGR would increase by then.
The outcome of the meeting with the governor was not acceptable to the members of the association and during their meeting on Monday, May 20, they resolved to continue the indefinite strike until the government honours the agreement it signed with them in January promising to commence full payment of their salaries by April.
“We were not happy, about the resolution. Yesterday there was a general meeting fixed, I did my best to convey the general message, and the response in the house was unanimous, nobody was happy,” Anigbaoso told The ICIR on Tuesday.
“They found it unacceptable saying the new minimum wage is not an offer, as their payment structure has nothing to do with it.
“So we pass a unanimous resolution that the indefinite strike would continue until the government adheres to our demands. We can’t go back and wait for another one year.”
All attempts to get the reaction of the Commissioner for Health in Anambra State, Dr. Joe Akabuike, have yielded no result. Repeated calls to his phone line kept ringing out and a text message sent to him has not been replied as at the time of this report.
A look at the budgetary allocation to the health sector in Anambra State since the Obiano administration took office in 2014 shows that the sector has received a total of N30.68 billion.
In 2015, it received the sum of N5.39 billion, in 2016, N5.95 billion, in 2017, the budget rose slightly to N5.97 billion, and in 2018, N7.91 billion was allocated to the health sector.
However, despite the seeming increase in the budgetary allocation to the health sector in the past six years, the striking doctors say there has not been any significant improvement in health services in the state or in the welfare of medical practitioners.
The association had noted earlier in their statement to the press that these challenges have lingered for about seven years, resulting in an exodus of doctors to other states and a professional stagnation of doctors, due to lack of adequate wages and service training.
It is not clear yet when the resident doctors would call off their industrial action but one thing is certain, it is the citizens of Anambra state that would be the worst hit as the face-off between the state government and the doctors drags on.