Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige and his Health counterpart Dr. Osagie Ehanire failed on Wednesday to get striking doctors back to work with the payment of their outstanding salary arrears.
The doctors, under the auspices of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), were unmoved though they confirmed payment already received by some of their members.
They insisted on continuing with their strike because of what the association called ‘insincerity of the government to meet our demands’. The strike enters the eighth day today.
Ngige said on Wednesday the government had paid the salary arrears of 1, 000 House officers and directed the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to open the recruitment portal.
He urged NARD to call off the strike.
The minister said: “We have tried our best to address the issues raised. As at today, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) has paid the salary arrears of over 1,000 House Officers including those illegally recruited.
“The MDCN has been asked to open recruitment portal. We are appealing to the NARD to call off its strike. In fact, House Officers are not members of NARD.”
A statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations of the Labour Ministry, Charles Akpan, said the Federal Government had not only substantially met the seven-point demand by NARD, it has also demonstrated transparency in their implementation.
It quoted Ngige as saying: “Clearly outside my schedule as the Minister of Labour and Employment , I was forced to go to the Accountant-General’s Office and Finance minister’s office for the payment of this money and it was paid 100 per cent even when the Ministry of Finance was releasing other budget items at 50 per cent because of low revenue receipt by the Federal Government.
Ehanire appealed to doctors to call off their strike in the interest of patients at this critical time.
The Health minister at a news conference to commemorate the World Health Day in Abuja. The Day, said this period was not a good time for doctors to boycott job.
But in a communique yesterday, the NARD described he statements credited to Dr. Ngige as “spurious misinformation”.
Admitting that some house officers have been paid, it said many of them are yet to be paid.
Besides, it alleged that the payment was marred by irregularities.
The association noted that the strike became imperative when it noticed that the Ministry of Health was not interested in any form of settlement to avert the strike.
It said the only positive result from the conciliatory meeting with the minister of Labour and Employment, was the abolition of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by NARD members on outside postings in all training institutions across the country.
“This”, it said, “is however not yet backed by a circular”.
The communique reads: “All other demands like the immediate payment of all salary arrears including march salaries for its members in all federal (GIFMIS platform) and state tertiary health institutions across the country, upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, payment of death in service insurance for all health workers who died as a result of COVID-19 infection or other infectious diseases, among other demands are yet to be met.
“We want to use this medium to reiterate our commitment to the smooth running of all tertiary institutions in the country and the provision of specialist healthcare to Nigerians, but we need to first of all care for our own health and welfare in order to give standard care to our patients. This is in line with our physician oath.”