Lagos Govt says negotiation not foreclosed on sacked doctors

The Lagos State Government on Tuesday said that it was a painful decision to have sacked 788 doctors but that it had not foreclosed negotiation on the issue.
The Commissioner for Health, Jide Idris, spoke to journalists in Ikeja at a news conference by the ministry to mark the first year of Babatunde Fashola’s second term in office.
Mr. Idris, who justified the sack, said that the government did what it did to restore services, particularly, in the emergency departments of the hospitals as part of its social responsibility to the people.
According to him, the state had earlier attended a meeting with the doctors as an indication that there is always room for negotiation.
“But to our dismay, the doctors came and insulted members of the panel,” the commissioner said, adding that everybody had the right to strike while government also has the right to sack.
“The bottom-line is that you have people who entered the civil service under specific rules and regulations. The state government reserves the right to evolve policies for the civil service but once you allow people to behave in a manner that they like, there will be chaos and disaster.”
The commissioner of health claimed that the strike had not paralysed activities at public hospitals in the state.
“What we are addressing now is the emergency services. We have the responsibility of providing healthcare and that is our priority now.
“The hospitals are not totally paralysed as some doctors are still working. We still have over 1,000 doctors in service including the new ones.
Mr. Idris said as at yesterday (Monday), new doctors recruited by the state had their orientation and are being deployed to the various hospitals.
“We have plans to recruit more as a good number of doctors from other states have signified interest to work with us.
“We do not know any other state that pays as much as we are doing right now. This government has bent over backwards. That is why the government was forced to publish what they are being paid,” he said.
The Grievances
The commissioner then expatiated on the grievances.
“In the first place, they demanded that house officers and medical officers on Grade Level 12 must be paid teaching allowance.
“As at the point of discussion, we did not say we would not pay. But a circular provided by Salaries and Wages Commission, Abuja, specified the category of health workers that are entitled to teaching allowance.
“In that document, the house officers and those medical officers were not entitled to teaching allowance and that is where the state says we cannot pay teaching allowance to those who do not teach because we are not doing the same thing for nurses, pharmacists and other health workers.”, Mr. Idris said.
He explained that the doctors asked that consultants to be employed be placed on Grade Level 15, but that was a task too difficult to meet. He said the demand was taken into consideration and the consultants were started on Grade Level 13 step one.
The commissioner dismissed the threat by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to shut down hospitals.
“We will not be distracted by an association because the same NMA has been in Lagos since this started. Who then is after the interest of the patients?” he said.
Mr. Idris accused the NMA of peddling false information on authorities that it did not have.
 “NMA does not grant medical license. The Medical and Dental Council does that. It (NMA) just wants to instil fear into the new doctors.
“NMA should be an association of professional doctors not one that impedes healthcare services. Discipline must be maintained in service because once that is compromised, there will be chaos.”
On the issue of recruitment of doctors, Mr. Idris said the fresh doctors had nothing to fear, explaining that there are still consultants and other cadres of doctors who are working with the state government as well as doctors who are not entirely new in the system.
At the news conference, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba, said that the decision of the government was in the interest of the patients.
“In spite of all our pleas, the doctors remained adamant,” he said.
“For once, we must call their bluff. Are they more professional than engineers or lawyers? If you continue to pamper these ones, then the other professionals will say they want the same treatment.
“Why do they believe that they are above sanctions? Their boss employed them and it is their boss that gave them sack letters,” Mr. Ibirogba said.

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