The Federal Government has asked striking resident doctors to resume work, saying state governments were in charge of most of the issues they have raised.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, Thursday, said seven of the 12 matters raised by the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, were responsibility of state governments.
Consequently, the minister said he expected the resident doctors to resume work today and take up the issues with the state governments rather than embark on a nationwide strike as they had done.
According to him, this is because the Federal Government has started addressing the five issues it is responsible for.
Resident doctors in Nigerian public hospitals started a nationwide strike on Monday for several reasons, including delays in the payment of their salaries and allowances.
The strike coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, leaving many worried that it could have serious consequences for the battle against the third wave of the pandemic.
Ehanire said the industrial action was crippling government’s efforts in tackling the resurgence of the pandemic.
Defending his position on the strike and the call on the doctors to resume work, he said the Nigerian Constitution clearly spelled out the responsibilities of all the tiers of government.
“Resident doctors cannot hold the Federal Government to ransom on issues related to states governments,” he said.
Speaking further, the minister argued that the resident doctors employed by the Federal Government had no basis to join the strike in the first case, explaining that they were not being owed.
The doctors had insisted that they had no choice but to opt for the strike at the start of the action, arguing that the government never held talks with them until they took drastic action.
“Usually there is no negotiation done until we go on a strike,” President of the Association of Resident Doctors at the National Hospital in Abuja, Dr Akanimo Ebong, had said.
The resident doctors had gone on strike earlier this year, suspending the action after 10 days on April 10.
“We never called it (the strike) off, we only suspended it to give time for negotiations. But since we called off the strike on April 10, nothing has been done,” Dr Ebong said.
The latest strike followed a meeting of the National Executive Council, NEC, of NARD in Umuahia, the Abia State capital.
Issues raised by the medical practitioners include the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.
They are also asking for an upward review of the hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary institutions.