Medical doctors in Osun State have threatened to embark on an indefinite strike if the government of Governor Rauf Aregbesola fails to meet their demands within 21 days.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Osun State branch, Tokunbo Olajumoke, said in Osogbo on Monday that the decision to issue the ultimatum was reached at an emergency meeting of the association.
According to him, all medical doctors in the state would join the strike at the expiration of the ultimatum.
Reading a statement jointly signed by himself and the state NMA secretary, Olalekan Ajayo, he said lack of drugs and consumables and basic amenities were rampant in hospitals across the state.
He said besides non-payment of salaries of doctors, the medical practitioners had no equipment to work with.
Mr. Olajumoke urged the state government to address the issues without further delay.
“Following over two years of appeals, engagements and discussions with the state government on the decadence in the health sector in Osun state, the association hereby give a 21-day ultimatum from today August 28 to September 17, 2017,” he said.
“At the expiration of the ultimatum, the association will be left with no other choice than to immediately withdraw our services in the state.”
He said the NMA called on traditional rulers, members of the National Assembly and the Osun State House of Assembly and other stakeholders to prevail on Governor Aregbesola to do the needful so as to save the health sector in the state from further collapse.
“The demeaning level of care being meted upon medical practitioners by the state government is best described as a vicious cycle of poor remuneration with consequent unsatisfactory career, flight of already scarce medical practitioners and then a subsequent pseudo-employment that does not last for a reasonable time,” Mr. Olajumoke said.
“Expectedly, in view of the neglect in the sector, there has been an untoward effect on the good people of the state as evidenced by the increasing mortality and morbidity indices of the state.
“Despite accessing various funds, including the monthly allocations, ecological funds, project repayment funds (largely undisclosed), N11.74billion and N6.314 billion as her own share of the first and second tranche of the Paris club refund respectively, the state government has continued to pay our members varying percentages of their emoluments, in the range of less than 30 per cent in the last 24 months as against what is stipulated by the wages and salaries commission of our dear nation.
“The state government, despite agreement to the contrary has also continued to withhold between four and six months salaries of our members during the period of industrial action embarked upon by some of our affiliates when the state government unilaterally slashed their salaries without any form of discussion.
“The state government has also continued the issuance of payslips not in tandem with the salary received in the last two years. This has led to inability of members to fulfil their obligations to cooperatives and banks with regrettable implications on individuals.
“Osun State is the only state that has continued to pay her doctors fractionated salaries, deduct full taxes while paying fractionated salaries with issuance of non-complimentary payslip.
“Despite these harsh and unfavourable conditions, the state doctors have continued to render health care services to the good people of Osun state.
“The association has staged several protests and made many appeals to the government, federal House of Representatives, state assembly, traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders in order to find a lasting solution to the unconventional and illegal posture of the state government to the state of the health sector and welfare of doctors without positive outcome.”
According the association, a committee set up by the state government headed by Hassan Summonu to look into the salary allocation in the state, has not acted in the best interest of NMA members.
Mr. Olajumoke added that while the people of Osun deserve effective health care, the medical practitioners also deserve their emoluments as and when due.
He said the governor should accede to the demands of the doctors to avert strike.
Commissioner for Information, Osun State, Adelani Baderinwa, in his response, said the government had been notified on the 21-day ultimatum, saying the government would address the issues raised by the doctors.
He however pleaded with them to show understanding to the “plight of the government.”
“It is on record that doctors in the State of Osun are perhaps the highest paid in the South-West states after Lagos and did everything to ensure the standard was maintained for as long as the finances of government were in good shape,” Mr. Baderinwa said.
“This illustrates that the administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is very sensitive to health matters and would always treat the health workers very well, if not specially.
“Issues bordering on full payment of their salary should not degenerate to the level of downsizing because it has been demonstrated that other workers of the state who were being paid modulated salary would sure get their arrears when the state finances improve.
“Recently, the state government paid July and August 2015 salary arrears of the workers; so, there is nothing to assume or suggest that the government would not pay arrears for the doctors.
“The government knows that other issues raised by the doctors as their agitations are secondary; their salary is their primary reason for their action. Primary health centres and other hospitals in the state are well-equipped.
“We sincerely urge the doctors to reason with the state government and understand the reality of the state finances.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s administration is very responsive to the welfare of the general populace and the workers in the state.”