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Worry, uncertainty as doctors begin nationwide strike today

Barely four months after they ended their 10-day strike in April this year and 11 months after they ended a three-day strike in September last year, medical services in public hospitals are expected to suffer unexpected disruptions from tomorrow as medical doctors under the aegis of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embark on a nationwide strike to press home their demand for better conditions of service.

Similarly, Consultants in public hospitals under the aegis of Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) have also concluded plans to withdraw their services nationwide soon if their grievances are not addressed.

While the Resident Doctors are to withdraw their services effective Monday, members of MDCAN said their industrial actions would take effect from August 16th, 2021.

According to the two bodies, their decision to down tools stemmed from what they described as “poor working conditions, owed salaries and entitlements and several other issues bordering on welfare and inequalities.”

Both NARD and MDCAN restated that, though, they are committed to the smooth running of the healthcare sector, they could only do that within a conducive working environment which, they said, includes improved welfare packages for them.

Patients who are often at the receiving end have begun to make arrangements for alternative healthcare services to avoid unexpected happenings during the duration of the industrial dispute with private health clinics on the wings to harvest from the industrial disharmony in the public healthcare sector.

NARD President, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, in a statement at the weekend confirmed that the decision on nationwide strike was taken at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Association held at Umuahia, Abia State, at the weekend.

This, he said, was after the suspension of the total strike 113 days ago due to government promises as contained in the Memorandum of Actions (MOA) signed at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.

He said the NEC-in-session deliberated on several issues that bordered on undue hardship faced by its members on GIFMIS payment platform which had led to delays in payment of their salaries ranging from three to seven months.

Dr. Okhuaihesuyi added that the NEC equally noted that despite government promise to migrate members from the GIFMIS to IPPIS payment platform, some doctors are still stuck on the GIFMIS platform which is laced with payment irregularities.

He said the NEC was concerned about the circular from the Head of Service of the Federation removing House Officers from the scheme of service, and the consequent implementation by the Lagos State
Government, in addition to that fact that some House Officers are still being owed 1-2 months salaries.

He said the NEC also noted that bench fee for outside postings by Resident Doctors has been abolished, but some Chief Medical Directors still charge the fee as training fee, thus causing hardship on doctors.

He said that NEC also considered the fact that Chief Medical Directors in collaboration with NARD have submitted the list of salary shortfalls for 2014 to 2016, but Federal Ministry of Health was yet to commence disbursement of the salaries shortfalls to doctors.

Dr. Okhuaihesuyi also confirmed that the NEC bemoaned the non- remittance of doctor’s membership dues by the Registrar of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Dr.Tajudeen Sanusi, despite following all the dictates of the Nigeria Labour law and appropriate stake holders consultations.

On its part, the MDCAN President, Prof. Ken Ozoilo, said the decision to down tools was taken in Jos, recently, at the end of the emergency meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC), in which some members participated physically will others joined via the digital platforms.

He said the sole agenda for the meeting was to deliberate on the continued underpayment of members who are clinical lecturers in Universities across Nigeria, against the backdrop of the letter from the National Salaries, Incomes And Wages Commission (NSIWC) of 23rd April 2021, Ref no: SWC/S/04/S.410/T/86, to the Office of the Account General of the Federation (OAGF), directing the removal of doctors who are lecturers from the CONMESS salary scale on the IPPIS platform for the payment of their salaries in the Universities.

The NEC of the Association observed that its members have suffered massive income loss in the past 10 years, and it was the direct result of the fact that they do two full time jobs in both the Universities and the teaching hospitals.

The NEC observed that the income loss extends into retirement as their benefits are much reduced due to the income loss incurred in the University, in addition to that fact that their work in the teaching hospital is undercompensated, and also the fact that the remuneration system in the University does not recognize them as doctors, despite the fact that the University primarily employs them because of the fact that they are doctors.

They also observed that the income loss has led to the increasing difficulty in attracting the brightest and the best of Consultants into the University as lecturers, a steady exodus of the few doctors in academia to service centres and a worsening of the brain drain phenomenon.

The Association in a communique issued at the end of the meeting demanded the immediate withdrawal of the NSIWC letter Ref no: SWC/S/04/S.410/T/86, of 23rd April, 2021, that ordered the removal of doctors from CONMESS on the IPPIS platform in the University.

It also demanded that a directive be issued to the effect that all Universities previously paying their clinical lecturers on CONMESS scale before the aforesaid NSIWC letter should revert back to that practice immediately.

Similarly, it demanded immediate placement of all clinical lecturers in the remaining universities on CONMESS scale for the purpose of their remuneration in the University, alternatively, award a compensation for the income loss incurred by doctors in the University on account of being lecturers, provided that it reflect in their pension contributions.

The Association also suggested that doctors migrating from teaching hospitals to the Universities upon completion of residency training, should do so with their salaries personal to them. It rejected a practice whereby Senior Registrars loose income when they migrate from the teaching hospitals to become lecturers 1 in the University.

The Association asked for a compensation for the clinical work done in the teaching hospitals by increasing the clinical duty allowance to 100 per cent of the consolidated basic salary of the CONMESS scale, and a halt to the proposed movement of consultants from IPPIS back to GIFMIS for the purposes of payment of their salaries.



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