Hopes that the striking doctors in public hospitals throughout the country would return to work are dashed after a prolonged meeting between representatives of the federal government and the Nigerian Medical Association ends in a deadlock
| By Chinwe Okafor | Jul. 21, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
TWO weeks after members of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, embarked on an indefinite strike, the federal government is yet to meet the demands of the striking doctors. The NMA has insisted that it won’t call off the industrial action till the government honours its demands as contained in the agreement they both reached in 2009.
The association said after its delegates met with government representatives on Tuesday, July 8, that its members would not suspend the strike until their demands were met. The message read, “After a holistic review of the circulars and resolutions reached between the NMA and the Federal Government negotiating team; the delegates were not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting between the two parties and resolved to continue with the strike until the Federal Government does the needful.”
But Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision of medical doctors under the aegis of the NMA to continue with the ongoing strike. He expressed disappointment at the doctors’ decision, saying that the Federal Government had hoped that the doctors would call off the strike after its emergency delegates meeting that ran through Monday till the early hours of Tuesday.
He said the doctors after the meeting insisted on continuing with the strike because the Federal Government offers were not in line with their expectations. He said the doctors had compressed their demands into three and these revolved around the payment of their six months’ salary arrears, approval of skipping of levels for some cadre of doctors and appointment of other health professionals as consultants, as conditions for ending the strike.
Chukwu lamented that in spite of efforts being made by the government to end the strike, the doctors remained resolute to continue the action. He said: “I got a call that made it clear to me that after our long overnight meeting and in spite of the fact that I, Emmanuel Uduaghan, governor of Delta State, and some lawmakers went to address them around 11pm; they resolved not to return to work.
“We are actually addressing most of the issues that can be addressed through administrative processes and with that, we expected them to return to work but that has not happened.” According to him, the Federal Government had started moves to pay the salary arrears, adding that matters relating to skipping and appointment of consultants were still matters in the court and so could not be addressed now.
However, he explained that government negotiators were working on modalities on how the issues could be resolved amicably but the striking doctors are requesting that accrued arrears since January be paid and that until they receive the payment alert on their phones, they would not call off the strike. He said they had pleaded with them to be patient because the appropriation bill took a long time to be passed by the National Assembly.
Chukwu said that another reason they gave for not returning to work has to do with the issue of consultants because, according to them, since the 1970s and 90s, non-medical doctors had been appointed consultants by various hospitals being managed by medical doctors. He added that this was also the reason why they went to court and the court ruled that the ministry and government had the right to decide who should be a consultant in their hospitals but that the NMA has asked the ministry to disobey the court, which is not possible.