Nigeria may have yielded to the demands of its doctors by approving N9bn for the group life insurance of all health workers and N4,642,485,146 as special hazard allowance for the aggrieved employees in no fewer than 35 hospitals across the country.
The medics had embarked on an industrial action on June 15,2020 at the expiration of their 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government where they had tabled a six-point demand.
While calling off the strike on Sunday, however, the National Association of Resident Doctors stated that government had met most of its requests, while discussions were ongoing to resolve rest.
At a media briefing in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; his Health counterpart, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; and that of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, said government was concerned about the timing of the strike when all hands were needed to defeat the ravaging Coronavirus Disease.
Mohammed, who read a prepared speech, listed the proposals of the doctors to include access to personal protective equipment by all health workers, immediate reversal of the disengagement of 26 medics at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, and the instant implementation of the COVID-19 special hazard inducement allowance.
Others are capturing of funding for medical residency training in the 2021 appropriation bill as well as payment of arrears of the consequential adjustments to the national minimum wage to members and execution of same in state tertiary health institutions.
The doctors had also requested state governments that slashed their salaries by as much as 25 per cent to halt the exercise and refund the balance.
The minister disclosed that government met most of the demands, including the supply of PPE to all state and federal tertiary health establishments, while funds for the protective materials had been captured in the revised 2020 budget.
“We have also paid N9bn as premium for group life insurance to all our health workers and N4,642,485,146 as special hazard allowance to health workers as already acknowledged in at least 35 hospitals,” he noted.
He added that other matters relating to liabilities incurred by states as far back as 2014 were either in court, or beyond the Ministry of Health.
Suspending the strike after a virtual extraordinary National Executive Council meeting of the association in Abuja, NARD President, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, pointed out that the move was to afford the federal and state governments more time to fulfil the outstanding demands after appeals by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and other stakeholders.
He clarified: “The national officers shall continue negotiations with stakeholders and progress made shall be reviewed in four weeks during the next National Executive Council meeting in July 2020.
“They (government) have not settled us. The only thing they did is to pay hazard allowance to 11 out of 52 federal health institutions. They have only paid for April and May, leaving out March when the promise was made.”