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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

FG threatens to take action against striking doctors who fail to resume work today as negotiation meeting ends in a deadlock

The Federal government has threatened to take action against any resident doctor on its payroll who fails to resume work today, June 17.

Recall that the National Association of Resident Doctors began a nationwide strike on Monday, June 15. The striking doctors are among other things demanding the payment of their COVID-19 inducement allowances.

A negotiation meeting convened by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige with the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, and the leadership of the Resident doctors, ended in a deadlock on Tuesday night June 16 after many hours of deliberation.

The doctors refused to return to the meeting after a recess was taken. The National President, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, told newsmen that the doctors would only suspend the ongoing action within 24 hours if the government brings something tangible to the table.

“We are not coming back, we told them if something tangible is brought to the table, we can suspend the action within 24 hours but for now, the strike continues.

I am not coming back, others may come back. The outcome is that all our discussion and demands have not materialised… to a positive outcome and we have assured the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment that once we are able to get a tangible outcome, a notice of the meeting shall be conveyed within 24 hours to review the industrial action.” Sokomba said

Reacting to the striking doctors' position, a visibly angry Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said he was shocked by the position of the doctors. According to him, Nigeria is the first country where doctors will be embarking on a strike action during a pandemic.

Speaking to the striking doctors, he said

''One day you will be sitting where we are sitting; you will be going through the same thing we are going through. It is a circle of life. In other countries, we have seen retired doctors and workers come out of retirement. Nigeria is the first country in the world where health workers went on strike during a pandemic.''

The Minister said a directive would be issued to medical directors of all the hospitals to open a register on Wednesday June 17 to collect records of all doctors who report to work and those who did not so as to determine those who are still in service.

''Health is very important and a critical area at that, and under this circumstance, the health workforce is essential persons. We have pleaded with them over their demands so that the issues can be settled amicably. A number of them (their demands) do have merits, but the government has also tried to meet their demands.

Sometimes, under pressure the way the system is; we have an obligation as a ministry to be ready to protect the lives of Nigerians, we are not going to allow our hospitals to empty. The government has an obligation to support the needs to safeguard the health of the citizens.

The resident doctors have told us that they are not going to return to work anytime soon until certain conditions are met and we are not sure that they would not continue expanding the goal post every time we try to reach a solution.

Therefore, certain steps need to be taken to protect the citizens, particularly those who are in hospitals. The Ministry of Health will issue a directive to all medical directors and Chief Medical Directors of all federal hospitals across the country to open up a register by 7 a.m and record all those who come to work and all those who do not come to work. Further action would follow that and those who come to work, it will be understood they are still in service and when the register closes at 12 noon we will be able to know who comes to work or not.” Ehanire said

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