The Nigerian government has advised striking medical doctors in the country under the auspices of Resident Doctors Association to empathize with the Nigerian people by adhering to their oath of service to save lives.
This was the submission at a press conference attended by the Minister of Health, Minister of Labour and Employment and the Minister of Information and Culture in Abuja on Sunday, where it was emphasised that the doctor’s most important duty was to save lives above every other consideration.
According to the Ministers, the duty to save life should be of paramount concern to the striking doctors especially as the world battles the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the Federal Government had attended to all demands made by the striking doctors urging them to return to work.
“It is pertinent to say that the issues raised by the Association, while issuing its ultimatum on June 1st, have received or are receiving full attention:
Alhaji Lai Mohammed said Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been supplied to all States and Federal Tertiary Hospitals, as demanded by the doctors, while funds for the same have been provided in the revised 2020 budget.
The Minister also said that the Implementation of the Residency Training programme is backed by the National Assembly, with ₦4 billion provided in the revised 2020 budget.
He added that while the Ministry of Health was working with the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to build a template to ensure more allowances for doctors in the Personnel Cost of the 2021 Budget.
“ We have also paid N9 billion as premium for Group Life Insurance to all our health workers and N4,642,485,146.00 as Special Hazard Allowance to health workers as already acknowledged in at least 35 hospitals.
In his summary analysis of the payment, he said that a total of 55,031 Health workers in 35 Covid-19 designated hospitals and medical centres have been paid special hazard allowances totaling N4,642,485,146.00, adding that more payments was being processed .
The Minister however said that other matters relating to non-payment of arrears dating as far back as 2014 or salaries owed by State Governments were either in court, or could not be resolved by the Federal Ministry of Health.
The Information Minister therefore described the strike as ill-timed and inexplicable.
“This is an ill-timed and ill-considered strike. We hope the striking doctors will immediately reconsider their stand and end the strike today! By doing so, they will be saving many lives.”
According to him, the strike was a dangerous setback for the nation’s efforts at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Permit me to speak more on the Covid-19 pandemic and our health workers. Gentlemen, as we have always said, the health workers are our heroes. They have been in the forefront of the efforts to contain the pandemic. In the process, many have been infected with the virus.”
We are also aware of the challenges confronting health workers in carrying out their duties, especially the provision of the PPE. But I make bold to say that the Federal Government has done everything possible to procure PPE and make such available to our health workers”.
Of course, the fact that this is a global pandemic has affected the availability of PPEs and other requirements for fighting the pandemic. Not even the developed countries have been able to procure all that they require, such as PPEs and ventilators.
But Nigeria has prioritized this and has also succeeded in procuring as many PPEs as possible for distribution to our health workers, and we now have a stockpile for emergency situation.”
According to the Information and Culture Minister, the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration has acted responsibly to avert the ‘needless strike‘ .
“Many options are open to the Federal Government in tackling the strike, yet it has chosen negotiation over confrontation, as you can see in the efforts we have made so far. The Government has bent over backwards to meet the demands of the striking doctors.”
We must express the Government’s consternation that resident doctors will choose a time like this, when we are battling a pandemic, to embark on a strike. This negates what obtains in other parts of the world, where health workers are rallying around their governments to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. Nigeria must be among, if not the only nation, where doctors – who are classified as essential workers – have opted for a strike during a public health emergency”.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed said that the strike impacted negatively on public health, putting many lives – including those of doctors at great risk.
“This is not right and it clearly negates the Hippocratic Oath to which the doctors subscribe.”
The Minister for information said the Federal Government would continue to engage the resident doctors in negotiation appealing appealing to them to respect their oath and put life above other considerations.