From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Federal Government has accused striking medical doctors of allowing themselves and their association to be used by enemies of the state to cause instability in the health sector as a way of discrediting the government.
Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire, in a statement released in Abuja on Thursday, said the industrial action by the medical doctors is needless, noting that the government was fully committed to issues that concern the doctors, particularly their welfare and conditions of service.
Ehanire explained that the doctors are fully aware of the efforts of the government to meet their needs, but choosing to embark on strike was unacceptable and a deliberate effort to cause unnecessary disruption in the health care system.
He further explained that some of the requests of the doctors are not within the powers of the Federal Government to solve because health is on the Concurrent List of the Consitution, meaning that the Federal and State Governments have equal powers to make decisions on health-related matters.
‘Health is an item on the Residual Legislative List of the Nigerian Constitution. It means that the Federal and State Governments each have separate powers over which NARD has been advised to meet with the respective state governments, who are independent employers of some NARD members at state hospitals, in their own right, to resolve matters of specific concern between them.
‘The Federal Government has always proactively engaged NARD to seek solutions to their complaints, and I can in this regard comfortably state that, of the 12 resolutions of NARD’s National Executive meeting of 25th June 2021, that were submitted to us, only five issues are related to the Federal Government. Resolutions 6-12 are actually strictly employers/employee issues that ought to be resolved at the individual state government level, at which the Federal Ministry of Health has no jurisdiction, and as such do not merit nationwide industrial action.
‘These are: (1) Salary arrears owed Resident Doctors in state hospitals, (2) Domestication of Medical Residency Training Act (MRTA）by state governments (3) Speedy release of MRTA approved funds by states, (4) Minimum Wage- Adjusted CONMESS 2019, (5) Payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance by states, (6) Accreditation of unaccredited departments in State Training Institutions, (7) Central Posting of House Officers in state institutions.’
The minister insisted that dialogue is always the best approach to conflict resolution and the Federal Government has always been prompt in attending to labour issues in the health sector whenever it occurs.
‘It’s on record that the reason(s) for industrial actions declared by NARD has been discussed extensively with NARD and implementation of the resolutions adopted by both the NARD and government agencies led by the Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
‘We, therefore, appeal to NARD not allow their Association or themselves to be used by enemies of the Country to cause instability in the health sector,’ the minister advised.