Health workers under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and Allied Health Practitioners Association (AHPA) have condemned the NMA industrial action. President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mr. Olumide Akintayo, blamed government for medical doctors’ attitude and frequent strikes.
Akintayo said their demands were illegal because the NMA, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and similar platforms are professional groups and therefore cannot legitimately assume the responsibilities of trade unions, which engage government in labour disputes.
“The PSN puts on record once again that it is government at all levels that creates undisguised incentives to the NMA and its allies to continue to serve strike notices,” Akintayo explained.
“Rather than government tackling this aberration frontally once and for all, it continues to legitimise the illegality of these medical groups through unlawful dialogues and negotiations.
“This has strengthened successive leaderships of these groups to exploit the gaffes in the system to infringe on the rights of lawful stakeholders in Nigeria. The PSN, therefore, urges government to ignore the threats of the NMA and advise it to pursue any legitimate demand in line with due process.”
Doctors under the umbrella body had 12 days ago threatened a nationwide strike beginning from today if the Federal Government fails to meet their 24 demands. It is feared that the industrial action might shut the already jaundiced health sector and fuel a rise in preventable deaths, especially during emergencies.
Expectedly, the action would lead to a rise in patronage of private hospitals with the resultant increase in the cost of medical care. Obembe said: “Our main reason is that we want to sanitise patients’ care in Nigeria. The lives of our patients are endangered.
“The structure is that a patient is assigned to a consultant who is medical doctor in a specialty in medicine. The consultant could be a cardiologist, a nephrologist, an orthopaedic surgeon and so on. But now, the other health workers are struggling with the consultant for ownership or care for the patient.
“The medical laboratory scientists are fighting the pathologists for the headship of the laboratory results. The pharmacists want to prescribe and at the same time dispense drugs. This is unacceptable.
“We have kept quite for so long. We have given the Federal Government enough time to address the issue. We agreed to suspend the strike last December for government to do the right thing. If we don’t act now, there is bound to be apathy. It will lead to the total collapse of the health sector.”
Also, Obembe told newsmen in Abuja yesterday that the strike would continue until all their demands are met, some of which are that the position of Chief Medical Director must continue to be occupied by medical doctors, while government should expedite action on the passage of the National Health Bill and extend universal health coverage to 100 percent of Nigerians, not 30 percent as recommended by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The NMA insisted that medical doctors be paid at least N100,000 per month as hazard allowance, and clinical duty allowance for honorary consultants be increased by 90 percent of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS).
Others include that Grade Level 12 in the health sector be skipped for medical doctors, while health workers should attain the height of their career, GL17, without being designated directors in the hospital setting in line with the Teaching Hospital Act.
They also demanded the immediate payment of the arrears of the corrected relativity for the 22 years that their members were shortchanged, while doctors’ salary be adjusted immediately to maintain relativity.
Obembe further called for the immediate withdrawal of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) circular authorizing the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) to approve licenses for the importation of In-Vitro Diagnostics (IVDs), among others.
NMA also seeks the Office of Surgeon General, restoration of relativity in the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for health workers and Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) for medical doctors, and clinical duty allowance for honorary consultants should be increased by 90 percent of CONMESS.
It is equally demanding specialist allowance, as contained in the 2009 collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, all doctors on CONMESS 3 and above must be paid specialist allowance or its equivalent not less than 50 per cent higher than what is paid other health workers, and hazard allowance must be at least N100, 000 per month for medical doctors.
It also seeks the establishment of “concrete funding framework for residency training,” while “overseas clinical attachment must be fully restored and properly funded.”
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