The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors has petitioned the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on unresolved issues affecting its members.
This is just as Ehanire said the Federal Government is working on introducing performance-based remuneration for healthcare workers.
The NARD says if the issues are not resolved before its January 2023 National Executive Council meeting scheduled for January 24–28, 2023, the doctors may embark on a nationwide industrial strike.
The resident doctors, in a letter dated January 5, 2023, signed by the association’s President and Secretary General, Dr Emeka Orji and Chikezie Kelechi, respectively, said it had issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government six months ago on account of unresolved issues affecting its members.
The letter titled ‘Imminent nationwide industrial harmony in the health sector: A matter of urgent administrative importance’ read in part, “Recall Sir, that NARD issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government six months ago on account of lingering unresolved issues affecting our members, including the irregularities in the new circular on the upward review of the Medical Residency Training Fund, outstanding payment of the arrears of the new hazard allowance, non-payment of the skipping arrears for 2014, 2015 and 2016, non-payment of the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage to some of our members, delay in the upward review of the CONMESS, salary arrears of our members in State Tertiary Health Institutions running into several months, including Abia, Imo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Gombe States, and non-domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act in most states across the Federation.
“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the government through its ministries, departments, and agencies in resolving some of the issues raised. However, many of them remain largely unresolved and have now become sources of serious nationwide agitation, threatening industrial peace and harmony in the health sector.
“Notable ones amongst them include the omitted 2020 MRTF payment, irregularities in the new MRTF circular inconsistent with the Medical Residency Training Act, existing Collective Bargaining Agreements, and current economic realities and a review of the CONMESS salary structure.
“Sir, our January 2023 National Executive Council meeting has been scheduled for January 24th–28th, 2023, and we can confirm very clearly that if these issues are not sorted out before that meeting, our members will likely give us the mandate to immediately kick-start processes that will lead to a nationwide industrial disharmony in the health sector.”
When contacted, the Deputy Director/Head, Media and Publicity at the Federal Ministry of Health, Ahmadu Chindaya, said he was not aware of the letter yet.
He said, “The petition comes to the Permanent Secretary’s office. It has to go through processes; it has to go to the table of the Permanent Secretary. This is news to me; I didn’t know; I’m not aware because all official letters come through the upper registry, which is the first point of call, they have to stamp and receive it, process it, and push it further. So, I don’t know about it.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Ehanire, has said the Federal Government is working on introducing performance-based remuneration for healthcare workers to reduce the brain drain in the country.
The minister spoke in Abuja while fielding questions from journalists on brain drain in the health sector on Tuesday at the 17th edition of the present regime’s scorecard series.
The Nigerian Medical Association had in October said no fewer than 10,296 Nigeria-trained doctors are currently practising in the United Kingdom.
Also, the NARD told The PUNCH there are only about 10,000 resident doctors left in the country.
The minister, however, said the exodus of healthcare workers is not peculiar to Nigeria.
He said, “This is not an exodus. The very high workforce mobility of health workers is global. Doctors and nurses are moving everywhere. I have had to speak with other ministers, even Ghana, they are losing doctors, so there is high mobility in the health sector workforce globally, so we should not knock ourselves as if we are the only victims on earth.”
According to him, the governments in Gambia, UK, Egypt, and Turkey are also lamenting of migration of healthcare workers to other countries.
“We are also looking at how to introduce a better form of performance-based remuneration so that doctors don’t just receive a simple grade-level salary but according to their work, so we try to measure performance and let people be happy that they have properly been rewarded for what they have done.
“Right now, doctors and nurses don’t feel they are properly rewarded for the work they are doing, so that will help a lot.”
He also said the ministry made submissions to the Health Reform Committee on the upward review of the remunerations of doctors.