By Moses Emorinken/Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja/Adeola Ogunlade
The fight against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country is facing a fresh challenge, following a threat by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to call out its members on an indefinite strike.
Doctors accused government of failure to resolve issues revolving around their welfare and safety and want the matter resolved within 14 days.
With confirmed cases of COVID-19 rising to 9,855 nationwide on Saturday, a strike by the resident doctors at this time is capable of throwing spanner in the works with regard to fighting the pandemic.
The federal government, according to the NARD is paying lip service to the welfare of health workers, especially when it concerns the review of hazard allowances and life insurance, which it says is active only on the pages of newspapers.
The association is also demanding the reinstatement of its 26 members who were ‘illegally’ sacked in Jos.
It said some state governments had chosen this critical and wrong time in the country to slash the salaries of health workers.
Speaking with The Nation, the President of the NARD, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, said: “The illegal disengagement of 26 resident doctors at Jos University Teaching Hospital in the face of this pandemic without recourse to the law governing the residency training is one of the paramount issues that we believe should not only be addressed but also an apology issued to those affected.
“Our stand is that if there is anyone that is due to be disengaged, even if it is by tomorrow, the person should be disengaged. But we cannot tolerate illegal disengagement of people without recourse to the Residency Training Programme.
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“We demand immediate recall of the sacked resident doctors at Jos and payments of their salaries.
“Secondly, the residency training itself has not been implemented for some time now, even though there is already an Act enacted that was timed as far back as 2017. The part of the act states that there shall be funding for the programme and people who are not able to finish their programme in good time will be disengaged.
“The government has decided to implement part of the Act that says you should disengage them when they don’t finish their programme, but has failed to implement the part that says you should fund their programme.
“This is without prejudice to what is happening in Jos because what is happening in Jos is that the Act was totally abandoned and they illegally disengaged them.
“We demand universal implementation of the Residency Training Act in both Federal and State teaching hospital. We also enjoin the Federal Government through the National Assembly to ensure full capture of the residency training funding in the 2021 Appropriation Bill.
“What is worse is that all of this is happening when we thought that measures will be rolled out to address the COVID-19 and at least, if not improve the condition of doctors, then, the status Quo should be maintained. On the other hand, what we get is further assault.”
The Federal Government, he said, had agreed to review the hazard allowance of healthcare workers .
“Three months down the lane, nothing has been done,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “Our hazard allowance even as at May is still reflecting the N5,000 hazard allowance they claimed they have reviewed.
“We think there is no sincerity in the way and manner government is handling this matter.
“The life insurance they claimed they have also procured for doctors and other health care workers is only on the pages of newspaper.
“We demand immediate implementation of the revised hazard allowance and payment of COVID -19 inducement allowance.
“As I speak to you, I have just been informed of the death of one of our colleagues, Dr. Nas, who incidentally was my classmate in medical school.
“So, the point is that as people keep dying, what do we tell their families and relations? Is it that we are just watching them die, while government is doing nothing and we are not saying anything?
“What is worse is that in some states, the government has decided again to further add insult to injury. They waited until COVID-19 time to slash doctors and other health care workers’ salaries further.
“Like what was recently executed by the Kaduna State Government that cut the salaries of health workers by twenty-five (25) per cent.
“We demand payment of arrears of the consequential adjustment of the new minimum wage to our members and its application to state tertiary health institutions.
“NARD condemns the illegal deductions in salaries of our members by some state governments and demands immediate refund.
“We note with concern the incessant harassment of her members by security agents and assault on our members while on duty, particularly in Lagos, Delta, and Abuja. We call on security agencies to stop the harassment and assaults of doctors while carrying out their legitimate activities.
“The association is hereby issuing a 14-day ultimatum to government after which the Association shall proceed on a National Total and Indefinite Strike action should our demands remain unmet at the end of the 14 days.”
Ogun doctors kick over delay in salary payment, unfair treatment
The Association of Resident Doctors of Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Ogun State, separately kicked over what it called delay in the payment of members’ salaries, hazard allowances and government poor handling of their plight.
The association denied signing any MOU with the state government over their plights.
The association’s President, Dr. Popoola Abiodun, and General Secretary, Dr. Osundara Adewale, wondered in a statement how government “expects us to be valiant in the face of COVID -19 when we have been having perpetual delays in the payment of salaries coupled with unresolved issues before them?”
In the statement entitled Ogun Resident Doctors Protest Continued Unfair Treatment, the ARD said: “Perpetually we have also been having our salaries delayed for no good reason. We had our salaries in April paid at the middle of May when other workers in the state were paid in April.
“Other workers in the state have been paid their May salaries as of 21st of May, 2020 but here we are still expecting the miracle.
“This kind of ill treatment does not speak well of a government that proclaims to care for all.
“Our wait is now one week gone but up till now, the government has been evasive.”
“As it stands, some people are even misleading the governor by telling him we signed an MOU. Nothing can be further from the truth.”
Nigeria records 553 new cases
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Saturday night reported an increase of 553 cases across the country taking the total number so far recorded to 9,855.
This is the largest single increase in a day, and it is coming at a time that doctors are threatening to go on strike.
According to data published by the centre on its website, 159 cases were discharged yesterday while 12 deaths were recorded.
A breakdown of the latest cases is as follows: Lagos-378; FCT-52; Delta-23; Edo-22; Rivers-14; Ogun-13; Kaduna-12; Kano-9; Borno-7; Katsina-6; Jigawa-5; Oyo-5; Yobe-3; Plateau-3; and Osun-1.
Lagos discharges 21 patients
In the update on Lagos State,Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced the discharge of 21 COVID19 Lagos patients – 6 females and 15 males.
One of those let home is a non-Nigerian.
This brings to 875 the number of #COVID19 confirmed cases that have been successfully managed and discharged in Lagos.
However, Health Commissioner Akin Abayomi said three other COVID-19 related deaths were recorded, increasing the infection mortality in the state to 50.
Abayomi made the disclosure on his Twitter account last night.
He, however, did not give additional information about the sex, age, nationality or medical conditions of the deceased.
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