(Joan Nwagwu, NAN)
The meeting between the Federal Government and the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has ended in deadlock.
NARD had embarked on nationwide strike on Monday to press home its demands for payment of hazard allowance, group life insurance, payment of minimum wage consequential adjustment, among others.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, during the meeting on Tuesday in Abuja noted that health workers are the essential frontline officers during the COVID-19 pandemic and have suffered great mishaps across the country.
According to him, it is important to let you know that we have reached an agreement in many areas and the government side have shown evidence on the payment of the hazard and inducements allowances.
‘We have paid those allowances since last night and it was directly paid into the account of recipients. So, we are hopeful that between the IPPIS office and the Central Bank, that before 24 hours they would all be credited for April and May.
‘The payment is not for only Resident Doctors, but also for consultants, nurses, pharmacists, physiologist, mortuary attendants, ICU centres, and all health care workers in COVID-19 designated hospitals and all Federal Medical Centres in designate states.
‘We assumed that these issues have been solved because IPPIS have shown evidence.
‘We have also agreed on matters that are in court, that we should step them down so that we do not enter areas that are in the purviews of the court.
‘Also, on the issue of group life insurance and the employee compensation, we have assured them that they have been paid and we told them they have no right to make claim for the resident doctors or any other health workers that must have had a mishap in the cause of work resulting to in death.
‘For those who do not die or have mishap or accidents in the cause of their work but became incapacitated, they can always make claims through the Employee Compensation Act, which the Federal Government have already activated,’ he said.
Ngige, however, said that the major issues have been taken care of while other minor issues such as the appropriation for residence programme has also been taken care of.
He also noted that the Federal Government have assured the striking doctors that the appropriation for residence programme has been captured in the 2021 budget and would roll over from 2020.
Also, the Minister of Health, Dr Ehanire Osagie, said that Nigeria was the first country in the world where doctors went on strike during a global pandemic.
‘The health of Nigerians is very important at this crucial time. We are ready to protect the lives of Nigerians, we are not going to allow our hospitals to fallow.
‘The health of Nigerians are very important at this crucial time and the health workforce is essential services, we have pleaded and we have done everything to meet the demands that they have placed on the table.
‘We at the Ministry of Health are ready to protect the lives of Nigerians, we are not going to allow our hospitals to fallow. The government have an obligation to support and keep health every Nigerians.
‘The resident doctors have told us that they are not returning to work very soon until certain conditions are met and they cannot keep extending the goal post any time they like,” he said.
He, therefore, said that certain steps needed to be taken, which involves issuing a directive to all Chief Medical Directors, Directors of all Federal hospitals and institutions in the country to open up a register of attendance.
He added that by Wednesday morning 7 am, they should record all those that come to work and all those who do not come to work will be noted and further actions will be followed.
‘Those who report to work will be taken as those who are still in service and the register will be closed at 12 noon and by then we will know who wants to still be in service,’ he said.
Speaking via phone, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, NARD President said that the resident doctors would call off their strike only when the government comes up with tangible evidence.
He added that this is the only way that the strike can be called within 24 hours.