Health workers’ strike looms over COVID-19 allowance

Health workers’ strike looms over COVID-19 allowance

Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) has warned that it would not guarantee industrial harmony if members who were wrongly paid 10 per cent as COVID-19 allowance were not paid the due sum, Daily Times gathered..

Mr Josiah Biobelemoye, National President of MHWUN gave the warning during a courtesy visit to the Chief Medical Director (CMD), University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Prof. Ekele Bisalla, on Friday in Abuja.

Biobelemoye said that the union had resolved to shut down the health system, if the government did not correct the anomaly before payment of the third batch of the COVID-19 allowances.

According to him, the agreement signed with the Ministry of Health on the COVID-19 allowance is that those who earned N5,000 as hazard allowance will be given 50 per cent of their basic salary.

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He noted that instead of implementing the agreement, the CMDs of various hospitals were misled to implement only a part of the agreement not meant for them.

“Rather, they misunderstood it to be giving 10 per cent to our members, who they considered as nonmedical professionals. This was confirmed when we met with the Ministry of Health officials, they agreed that there is an error and asked us to provide the list of those that were wrongly paid 10 per cent. We want to make it open to your management so that the circular with the wrong information can be withdrawn and replaced with the corrected one,’’ he said.

Biobelemoye said that the agreement stated that N5,000 hazard allowance had been shelved and, in its place, 50 per cent of basic salary should be approved for all health workers and not health professionals. He said it was also important for those who were not serving the public, such as the police, military or NNPC clinics, to get 40 per cent, while those working in COVID-19 centres would have extra 20 per cent.

“We feel, when you go for CMDs meetings, you can also brief them, especially for fair-minded CMDs like you to do the correction. If they fail to do that before the payment of the third batch we may not guarantee industrial harmony within the system. We also want them to know that an hour of disharmony in the health sector at this critical time will cost the country much more than it will use to pay the correct value,” he said.

The union leader appealed that the CONHESS adjustment should be done without delay as its members were running out of patience. He said that the union had asked that CONHESS be adjusted but it was interpreted as JOHESU asking for equal salary with doctors.

“For instance, if a doctor graduates from the university, the person is placed on level 12, and a non-doctor after graduation is placed on level zero-seven or zero-eight. This will take such a person nine years to get to level 12. I ask, does that mean that a medical doctor who graduated at the same time with a non-doctor remains stagnant to wait for the non-doctor to meet on level 12 after nine years,’’ Biobelemoye said.

He called on the Ministry of Health to ensure industrial harmony by ensuring there was no division among the health care workers irrespective of their professions. Bisalla, commended the leadership of MHWUN for the visit and efforts in ensuring that peace coexisted between the union and management of the hospital.

This was as Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, has said that the Federal Government will next week commence the payment of June hazard allowance for medical personnel handling the COVId-19 pandemic. Ngige gave the hint yesterday after a meeting between the Federal Government and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) in Abuja.

Ngige said that notwithstanding a shortfall in revenue, the Government would start the payment with six hospitals, while expecting more funds. On the Residency Training for doctors, he also disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Budget Office of the Federation, working in tandem with the Federal Ministry of Finance, had rectified the problem in the budget while the processing would commence soon.

The Minister said that Teaching Hospitals and Medical Centres had been directed to submit to the Ministry of Health, the list of names of their personnel who had some hitches in receiving their payments, adding that the names would then be forwarded to IPPIS from there.

He added that the issue of shortfall in payments had also been dealt with, as the names of the affected persons would be compiled and forwarded to the Ministry of Finance. Ngige revealed that the case of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) had been amicably resolved, with the Chief Medical Director bringing back the interdicted Resident Doctors. According to him, the two factors thrown up by the crisis in that local chapter of NARD had merged peacefully.

“Elections have been conducted to elect an interim executive to man the affairs of that chapter till December 2020, after which a fresh election would hold for a new executive that would take over in 2021.”

He congratulated the interim government in UPTH headed by Dr Solomon Amadi, and commended the Peace Committee for brokering peace successfully and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) for superintending over the election. Also speaking, the President of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr Aliyu Sokomba, noted that although a few issues were still pending, significant progress had really been made in addressing the concerns of NARD.

He appreciated the efforts of the Federal Government side led by Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige. Meanwhile, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 354 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total number of COVID-19 infections to 45,244.

The NCDC made this known on its official twitter handle on Thursday. The health agency said that three more persons had died from the disease.

According to NCDC, 45,244 cases had been confirmed, 32,430 cases discharged and 930 deaths had been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory till date.

It stated that the 354 new cases were reported from 17 states- FCT (78), Lagos (76), Kaduna (23), Ebonyi (19), Oyo (18), Nasarawa (17), Rivers (17), Delta (16), Kwara (15), Akwa Ibom (13), Edo (12), Ogun (12), Plateau (11), Kano (9), Bauchi (6), Borno (6), and Ekiti (6).

The NCDC said that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), activated at Level 3, had continued to coordinate the national response activities in the country.

The NCDC had said that the public health response in the country was being strengthened to address the coronavirus.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General of NCDC, at the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) briefing on Thursday, said this was part of the focus of the just concluded National Council on Health meeting presided over by the Minister of Health and attended by state Health Commissioners.

Responding to a question on the ability of the NCDC to carry out effective contact tracing now that the virus was at the community transmission stage, Ihekweazu said:

“Yes, it is harder when we have community transmission but not impossible, it just means we have to deploy all resources collectively.

“At the moment, for instance, NCDC still has a team of about 40 people supporting Lagos State alone. ”That is because we recognise the size of the challenge. A third of all the cases in Nigeria is still reported in Lagos, even though cases are declining over the last few weeks.

“Until we have a vaccine, there won’t be a point where we would say, ‘let’s relax.’ That is really out of the question.”

By Ukpono Ukpong, Abuja

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