… Action in bad faith-FG
By Azoma Chikwe and Magnus Eze, Abuja
Resident doctors across the country, yesterday, embarked on an indefinite strike to press for better welfare.
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) rose from a meeting in Abuja, yesterday morning, and voted for total strike.
The doctors said they would sustain the industrial action until all their demands are met by government and explained that the ongoing seven-day nationwide warning strike is to ensure better service delivery and easy access to health care for all.
President of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr Kenneth Uwajeh, lamented that the government was insensitive to the plight of doctors and patients in the country.
“The strike was embarked upon since government refused to come up with meaningful resolutions. We are demanding a revitalised residency training programme, implementation of the National Health Act and payment of arrears, among other things.
“The National Health Act is all encompassing as it would ensure universal health coverage in the country and all Nigerians will be well catered for. As a doctor, when I am well equipped with training and remuneration, I will deliver better,” he said. Dr Bolanle Ajayi of ARD, Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, urged Nigerians to join NARD in the quest to reform the health sector.
“This is a fight not only for doctors, but for the health of all Nigerians. We should not forget that average Nigerians are the victims of the deploring state of our health care sector, not our leaders,” she said.
She appealed to the federal government to adhere to its part of the agreement to prevent incessant strike actions in the health sector.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has expressed shock over the action of the striking doctors.
Government specifically accused NARD of acting in bad faith and cited resolutions of a meeting by both parties on September 1, 2017, which led to a memorandum of settlement.
Media Assistant to Minister of Labour and Employment, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, said resident doctors have no reason to embark on strike.
He said the NARD president, at the meeting which lasted for about 12 hours with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Mike Ogirima in attendance, expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the meeting.
He quoted the NARD president as saying: “From the conclusions we reached here, they are far reaching; that they will go a long way in assuaging the members that are already aggrieved and feel that all issues have not been sorted out.
“As we said, these issues have been lingering since 2013, but we have a new hope and we feel we have seen the green light at the end of the tunnel. I want to believe that if this document is presented to our members, we are very hopeful it will be given a favourable consideration. Thank you so much.”
Regardless, NARD President, Dr Onyebueze John, in a statement in Abuja, said: “Rising from our NEC meeting, which started by 7:00pm, yesterday, (Sunday) and ended 3:00am today (yesterday), NARD has resolved to reject the promissory offer from government, and proceed on total and indefinite strike action until all items in her demand list for strike action are resolved by government.”
The association, however, explained that it never agreed with the government delegation to suspend the planned strike, but the understanding was that the memorandum of settlement was subject to the approval of the NEC meeting which held till yesterday morning.
Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Senator Chris Ngige, had met with the resident doctors till the wee hours of Saturday.
The doctors are protesting the failure of government to pay their salary shortfall of 2016, and January to May 2017, and rectify the salary shortfall from August 2017, as well as inability to circularise House Officers’ entry point, among others.
Obidiwe, therefore, said, for the association to have changed position few hours after its meeting, meant that it had weak national leadership or there was an outright sabotage of the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.