Resident doctors suspend strike, give FG four-week ultimatum

 The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has announced the suspension of its strike which started on the 1st of April, 2021.

Speaking with The Nation on Saturday, the President of the NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said that the association decided to suspend its strike after receiving some good comebacks from their negotiations with the government. It however gave the government an ultimatum of four weeks to meet its sundry demands.

He said, “The strike has been suspended. The government gave us some good comebacks from our negotiations. We had an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting an hour ago, and we decided to suspend the strike for four weeks.”

Signs that the doctors will call off their strikes first emerged yesterday when the federal government set up a committee to smoothen out the payment of resident doctors by removing the irregularities encountered in the process.

The committee is part of ongoing efforts to resolve the payment dispute between the government and National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which led to the ongoing industrial action by the association.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, disclosed this at the end of a meeting between the representatives of the federal government and NARD which is an addendum to the Memorandum of Action reached between the parties on 31st March.

According to Ngige, the meeting agreed to set up the committee after noting that “the payment of House Officers’ salaries experienced some irregularities as double payments were made to some officers in some centres, while a few have not been paid as of date.”

Ngige said the five-man committee was given 72 hours from Saturday, 10th April to produce a valid list of names of House Officers to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), through the Federal Ministry of Health.

The committee members were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Health, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), IPPIS, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), NARD, Committee of Chief Medical Directors (CCMDs).

He hoped that with this and other understandings reached, NARD would give “this conciliation process a chance for industrial peace by calling off the strike which commenced on 1st April 2021.”

Also speaking at the end of the meeting, President of NARD, Dr. Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, said the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Association would relay the outcome of the meeting to their members “with the hope of calling off the strike tomorrow (Saturday).”

The minister further disclosed that the government was in the process of working out a better hazard allowance arrangement for all health workers in the country.

According to him, in consonance with an agreement signed in July last year to review that allowance, the Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS) had been on it all the while.

To this end, PCS would meet on Monday, 12th April, 2021 with National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to examine the issue, and would meet on Wednesday, 14th April with all the health sector workers – Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and its affiliate, NARD, and Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and its affiliates, the minister said.

The health workers are to present their position papers at that meeting.

On salary shortfall from 2014 to 2016, the minister stated that it was agreed that NARD and CCMDs should immediately submit a list of affected institutions and personnel strength for it to be captured in the 2021 Supplementary Budget, while the arrears would run from April 2019 to December 2019,  as contained in Memorandum of Action 1 (MoA 1).

The meeting generally examined the progress made in implementing the resolutions reached at its previous meeting of Wednesday, 31 March, 2021.

According to Ngige, “This meeting started on 31st March and produced the first Memorandum of Action, which formed the basis of our business today. Those we had given assignments reported back. We also went through the tabled issues again.”

Other issues examined at the meeting are abolishment of the bench fees, Residency training allowance, group life insurance payment, and payment of residents on GIFMIS platform.

The meeting also agreed that NARD would communicate their decision to the Minister for Labour and Employment before 12 noon, 10th April, 2021.

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