The doctors met on Monday evening to take a position on the strike.
The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, has described the ongoing strike by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, as illegal and unwarranted.
Speaking in Abuja, Monday, he said the doctors’ action was unnecessary as the ministry and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) were already handling the same issues for which they commenced the strike.
The NMA is the mother body to other medical professional subgroups of which NARD is a member.
According to Mr. Chukwu, not only was the ministry “handling issues” with NMA, the NARD was also part of the meeting.
“The strike by Resident Doctors was uncalled for because we were already handling the issues after our meeting with the Nigerian Medical Association. I still remember that the NMA gave us an ultimatum to look at certain issues and we had very long meeting with the NMA and indeed NARD participated in that meeting.
“There is a committee being chaired by Head of Civil Service of the Federation in which the NMA, including NARD are well represented. These are the same matters being handled; so there were persons already in a committee handling those issues and they should have exercised some patience.
“We understand that some of the issues have not been resolved but I think we can do well and exercise some patience before going on strike because when we go on strike, people’s lives are involved,” he stated.
The health minister also said he does not believe the strike is politically motivated
“For now, I don’t see it as politically motivated; I see it as Resident Doctors getting restive. But we are appealing to them to really calm down and exercise some patience; it will all be resolved”, he said.
Mr. Chukwu directed all hospitals indebted to her workers (house officers) to compile the debt for onward transfer to relevant quarters.
In a related development, the Head, Press/Public Relations, Ministry of Labour, Samuel Olowookere said the resident doctors have agreed to consider suspension of its ongoing strike action.
“The decision to consider the suspension of the strike action by NARD was reached after a protracted meeting which lasted for over 14 hours.
“In attendance at the meeting included the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; Executive Chairman, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Ebule; and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Ambassador Sani Bala,” Mr. Olowookere said on Monday in Abuja.
Quoting a resolution reached at the end of the meeting, Mr. Olowookere stated that the resident doctors have agreed to remain on the IPPIS programme while the problems identified by members of NARD in the programme should be addressed and resolved.
According to him, the resolution was jointly signed by the National President of NARD, Jubril Abdullahi; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Ambassador Sani Bala; and his counterpart in Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Chinedu Dike
“In view of the above dialogue in good faith, a meeting of NARD NEC would be convened on Monday, October 7, 2013 to consider the suspension of the on-going withdrawal of service by its members,” the communiqué read.
Mr. Olowookere added that a high-powered committee to be chaired by Mr. Chukwu was put in place to address the challenges identified by resident doctors in the implementation of IPPIS. The membership of the committee include permanent secretaries in the federal ministries of health and labour; Accountant-General of the Federation; Chairman of NSIWC; Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation; Director of Finance and Accounts/IPPIS Coordinator; Nigerian Medical Association; and NARD representatives.
On funding of local and overseas training for resident doctors, the meeting adopted the provisions of the resolution reached on the subject at the meeting held from September 9-10, 2013 between the Government and the Nigerian Medical Association with NARD present.
It was also resolved that the chief medical directors of government hospitals should come up with the list of resident doctors as well as the amount of arrears owed each of them for necessary action by the health minister within four (4) weeks.
Another resolution was that NARD (Federal Medical Centre, Owerri chapter) should suspend their ongoing one-month-old strike and appeal to the health minister for their non compliance to section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act, CAP T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
On the failure of Enugu State Government to implement the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) for resident doctors at the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, it was agreed that the ultimatum issued to the Enugu State Government by NARD should be stepped down and that the association should subsequently write to inform the Enugu State Government of issues of concern to its members.
Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to reach the NARD president for comments were unsuccessful as he was said to be in the executive meeting of the association.
“I will call you back immediately we are done with our meeting” he had told our reporter at about 8.30PM.
NARD’s immediate past president, Lawal Ismail, however, debunked some of the claims of the health minister.
Speaking in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES before joining other executive members in their emergency meeting in Lagos, Mr. Ismail stated that when NARD issued its ultimatum, the ministry was in no talks nor “handling issues” with them.
He further said that “the meeting we had on Friday was not conclusive. The Health and Labour Ministers wanted us to call off the strike and committees were formed but we intimated them that we needed to meet with other NARD executives as stipulated in our constitution.
“NARD branches are about to hold the meeting as I speak with you. The executives are meeting now. It is during this meeting that we would decide when the strike is to be called off and other salient issues.”
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