These days for Nigerìans, it rains, it pours, and it floods. In the public health sector, they now have to contend with resident doctors dropping their stethoscopes and downing tools for an indefinite strike.
On Tuesday evening, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), in a statement, declared a “total and indefinite strike,” after talks with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Tajudeen Abbas, did not yield any positive result.
They listed unmet demands, to include the immediate payment of the 2023 MRTF, the immediate release of the circular on one-for-one replacement, and the payment of skipping arrears.
They are also asking for upward review of CONMESS in line with full salary restoration to the 2014 value of CONMESS, the payment of the arrears of consequential adjustment of minimum (wage) to the omitted doctors, and the reversal of the downgrading of the membership certificate by MDCN,
In one report, the President of NARD, Dr. Mike Orji, said, “Many of these agreements have timelines. Take for instance the very major issue of the circular of one-for-one replacement, which is important because many doctors and nurses have deserted the hospitals in search of greener pastures outside the country.
“Hospitals are massively depleted and our members there are having a hard time coping with the enormity of work required of them. They are breaking down and some are dying. We know that this is because of the burnout effect of the overwork they are having.
“The government came out with a policy in February of how to quickly replace doctors and nurses as they leave. What was going to happen was that that policy was going to be backed up by a circular. The conciliatory meeting agreed that the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation would release the implementation guideline on or before 5th June 2023 for onward transmission to the Tertiary Hospitals for implementation. This is almost the end of July, and nothing has happened.
“We have also been talking about the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) for 2023 which was captured in the budget, but up till now has not been released.
“We have also been requesting an upward review of the consolidated medical salary structure. Government is yet to handle the matter the way they are supposed to handle it. This time around, we are not calling any percentage again; what we are asking for is full salary restoration.
“We said before that this salary structure we are using was approved in 2009 and implemented in 2014. What we are saying is restore us back to the value of the salary as at 2014 because we know that inflation, exchange rate increment and fuel price has eroded the value.
“Initially, before the removal of the subsidy, we said 200 per cent. With the removal of subsidy and the fuel price, we have done the math again, which will be in the neighbourhood of more than 600 per cent as the increment required to take us back to the value of that salary in 2014.
“Right now, we are not talking of percentage again; let the government do the calculation and tell us what we are getting because what we are asking is full salary restoration, and not even an increment. This will help us tackle the brain drain in the country.
“We are also asking for salary arrears that they are owing us – 2014, 2015 and 2016, and a host of other demands.
“We have always said that the circular for one-for-one replacement can be released tomorrow if the government wants to release it because it is just a circular. What is getting our members angry is that they are saying that they want to form another Committee on this again.
“If they can release the circular tomorrow, pay MRTF, then, they can start negotiations with timelines on other demands like upward review of salaries and other demands we have made. If they do this, it will be easier to present it to our members to now consider giving more time for the other issues to be sorted out.”
▪︎ Additional report by The Nation.