The meeting between the striking Natinal Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Federal government yesterday ended in deadlock just as the doctors worked out of the negotiations citing government’s lack of commitment to their demands as the reason.
Consequently, the Minister Health, Ehanire Osagie, has directed all Medical Directors nationwide to open a register and take note of any doctor who fails to resume duty tomorrow morning before 12 noon, noting that government have made adequate measures to deal with the situation as it arises.
Trouble started when both parties embark on a recess around 4.pm to reconvene by 6pm.
Daily Times observed that whereas the government team comprising of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Health and the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo returned to the meeting venue few minutes after six, there was not slight of the Doctors until about an hour later when the NARD President, Aliyu Sokomba, arrived but stormed out f the venue almost immediately.
When approached by Journalists to enquire why it’s members were not back as agreed, he said “I am not coming back, others may come back. All their promises have not materialised into positive outcome and we have assured the Minister of Labour and Employment that once we are able to get a tangible outcome, a notice of meeting shall be conveyed within 24 hours to review the industrial action.”
Meanwhile, the Minister Health while criticising the actions of the doctors, he said that Nigeria is the only country where health practitioners have decided to embark on strike amidst this pandemic.
“In other countries, we have seen that health workers are volunteering to serve. People who have retired are coming out of retirement to serve, nurses and doctors are putting in all they can. I do suspect that our country unfortunately is the first country where doctors have embarked on strike in the middle of this pandemic.
“We in the Ministry of Health have tried very hard to have reasonable discussions, mediated by the members of the National Assembly including the Speaker himself including the Chairmen of the Committees of Health and of course the mediation that have gone on since 11am with the Ministers of Labour and Employment to try and find a reasonable amicable settlement.
“We all know that health is a critical area and under this circumstances, the health workforce is an essential services. We have pleaded and done everything to meet the demands the resident doctors have put on table. A good number of them have merits, we are not denying that but the government have also been down double to see that request they make are attended to and sometimes, under great pressure.
“We as Ministry of Health have an obligation to protect the lives of Nigerians. We are not going to allow our hospitals to be fallowed nor our patients to be abandoned. The government have an obligation to support the need of everybody to keep their health and life.
“The Resident Doctors have told us that they are not going to return to work very soon until certain other conditions are met and we are not sure that they will not continue extending the goal post everytime we try to reach a solution. Therefore, certain steps need to be taken to protect the citizens most especially those in the hospital, those that need emergency services and those at the intensive care of COVID-19.
“This evening, the Ministry of Health will issue a directive to all Medical Directors and Chief Medical Directors of all federal hospitals and medical institutions in the country to open up a register tomorrow morning by 7am and record all those that come to work. All those who do not come to work will be noted down and further actions will follow that.
“Those who report to work will be understood to still be in service. Immediately the register closes by 12noon we will be able to know those who have reported for work and not.”
Earlier, the Ngige had expressed optimism that after the meeting, NARD would talk to their affiliate branches and call off the industrial action.
“I don’t want to go into the integrity of the industrial action whether you’re essential services or not, whether you are supposed to go on strike or not, I will only commend you and say go and read your Labour act and also the ILO regulations on essential services workers of which I know you’re one.”
On his part, Sokomba said “the reason for industrial action dates as far back as 2014, which some of them came up later in 2017 and recently presented on August last year to the Speaker of the National Assembly.
According to him, the most important issues that bothers resident doctors to go on strike includes the issue of protection, security and safety of doctors, which is the issue of life insurance.