By Adedapo Adesanya
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Association have issued a fresh 15-day ultimatum to the federal government, vowing to commence an indefinite strike over outstanding welfare issues.
In a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige, and other relevant stakeholders on Saturday in Abuja, the National President of the union, Mr Biobelemonye Josiah, said the ultimatum was necessitated by the nonchalant attitude of the government to the plight of its members.
According to Mr Josiah, the welfare issues include adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHES) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) since 2014, payment of all withheld April and May 2018 Salaries of our members and withheld Salaries in Federal Medical Center, Owerri, JUTH and LUTH review of the defective implementation of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance.
It added that other demands include – the implementation of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Consent judgment and other court judgments, increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65 years for health workers and 70 years for Consultant Health Professionals.
”Others are payment of reviewed hazard allowance in terms of payment that guarantee fairness and justice to all concerned, payment of actual 30 per cent consolidated basic shift duty allowance to Nurses/Midwives and others.
”Payment of teaching allowance to members on CONHESS 7 and 8 (Nurses, Midwives and others) and proper placement of Nurse Graduates and Interns,” he said.
The JOHESU president also said others include payment of outstanding salaries of intern health professionals and all the Tertiary Health Institutions, proper implementation of the consultant pharmacist cadre for pharmacists in the public sector, among others.
According to him, “you will recall that up till the time of writing this letter, the Federal Government has not deemed it fit to honour the Terms of Settlement entered into with JOHESU since September 2017.
”This is especially the upward review of CONHESS Salary Structure as agreed, to be completed within five weeks from the date of agreement amongst other requests.
”Government did not deem it fit to address these key issues during the duration of the last seven days warning strike and has only met with JOHESU on July 12.”
Mr Josiah said that it would also be recalled that on July 2020, that the Minister of Health agreed that a mistake was made by the government in the payment of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowances.
He noted that the shortfall was in the payment of 50 per cent Basic of Consolidated allowances to all those Health Workers.
He disclosed that it was a mistake on the part of the government and the shortfall shall be paid according to affected health workers.
He added that up till the time of the letter, the shortfall has not been paid. To make matters worse, when the payment for June 2020 was made, the government decided to again wrongfully pay 10 per cent of Consolidated Basic Allowances to our members affected by the shortfall of April and May 2020.
“This is in contravention of the spirit and content of the MoU signed on April 21, 2020.
”JOHESU, in compliance with the provision of Section 41 of the Trade Disputes Act Cap.T8 LFN 2004, is constrained to give the federal government of Nigeria 15 days ultimatum with effect from September 3.
”This also is to inform you that with effect from midnight of September 17, all our members in the Federal Health Institutions shall embark on indefinite strike action in all state and Local Government health institutions.
”You are all placed on red alert for the strike if the federal government foot drags in attending to our demands,” he said.
Mr Josiah, however, noted that JOHESU had shown maturity, selflessness and patriotism in the face of extreme provocations and the government’s nonchalant attitude on the welfare of its members.
Government Must Make Nigeria Attractive to Doctors—NMA
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has said that the main reason why many doctors flee from the country for greener pastures elsewhere is as a result of poor remuneration and welfare.
The National Publicity Secretary of the association, Mr Aniekeme Uwah, said this on Monday during the 2021 Correspondents’ Chapel Week, adding that the increasing human capital flight of doctors from the country will potentially affect the health sector.
Speaking in Uyo on the theme Post-COVID-19 Economy and the Challenges to Ethical Journalism Ahead of 2023 Elections, Mr Uwah said, “So many of our colleagues in Nigeria have moved for greener pasture abroad, and if this is not tackled, the health sector will be highly affected.”
He added that the only way to ensure that medical practitioners stay and practice in their country is to make them see their nation as a place of greener pasture which the government at all levels can actualize by addressing the issue of poor welfare and remuneration.
“The only solution is for government to make adequate budgetary provisions so that doctors and other health workers will be motivated and well remunerated,” Mr Uwar said.
On the other hand, the Chairman of the House Committee on Health Institutions, Mr Paschal Chigozie Obi, has said that little could be done to discourage doctors and health practitioners from fleeing the country.
Mr Obi, who said this on Monday during an oversight visit by the House committee to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, explained that, “We held several meetings with the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) and we hands-off when the matter went to court.
“We can’t do anything until the matter is withdrawn from the court because anything we do will be sub judice. So, we can’t interfere in the court process until it is settled. Right now, we are handicapped.”
As the strike action embarked upon by members of NARD lingers, Mr Obi appealed that committee, in collaboration with the executive arm, is doing its best to ensure a reasonable condition for medical professionals in the country.
Oyo Assures Residents of COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy, Safety
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Residents of Oyo State have been assured of the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, urging them to take the jab to keep the state safe from the virus.
Last week, the state government, through the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, collaborated with UNICEF to create awareness on the COVID-19 vaccine (COVAX) among residents in the state.
The UNICEF C4D Specialists, Akure Office, Mrs Aderonke Akinola-Akinwole, stated that there was the need to educate and clear all doubts about the efficacy and safety of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine by the people of the state especially those living at the grassroots.
According to her, media practitioners have a huge role to play in demystifying misconceptions and rumours about COVAX in the grassroots.
She dismissed rumours that the vaccine causes early death, sterility or that it is a scam, adding that residents should shun all unfounded assumptions about the vaccine.
The UNICEF representative further explained that the vaccine is safe, effective and free of charge, as it helps reduce the effects of COVID-19 if contracted at all after the complete vaccination.
Earlier, the Director of UNICEF Programs in the ministry, Mr Rotimi Babalola, in his welcome address stated that the meeting with media practitioners and information officers from all the 33 LGA’s is important at this time, due to the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
He noted that the Delta variant of the pandemic is deadlier than the previous COVID-19 hence the need to raise awareness among citizens who may have let down their guards concerning the COVID-19 protocols.
Mr Babalola stressed that the vaccine is available at primary health care centres in the state at no cost to prevent the spread of the virus especially at the time that school’s resumption is in the offing.
Court Orders Resident Doctors to Suspend Strike
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
**As NARD Appeals Ruling
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria has ordered the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend their strike action and go back to work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The order followed a suit filed by the federal government to challenge the legality of the industrial action, which commenced August 2.
Justice Bashar Alkali, while ruling on the matter on Friday, also asked all parties to return to the negotiating table.
Counsel to the federal government, Mr Tochukwu Maduka, alongside the Federal Ministry of Health, noted that resident doctors embarked on the strike action, without proper notice as provided by the extant strike laws.
According to Mr Maduka, resident doctors are persons who provide essential services and cannot embark on strike as continuing to do so will pile hardship on citizens.
He also prayed the court to compel the members of NARD nationwide to return to their duty posts, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Opposing this, the counsel to the resident doctors, Mr Femi Aborishade, urged the court to discountenance their application, arguing that the life of a medical doctor was not less useful than the life of an average human being.
He further pointed out that justice must be balanced, not just to the government, but also to the doctors who are the field marshals in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, both parties had told the vacation judge, Mr Alkali, at the industrial court on September 15 that they were set to negotiate and give the court an update by Friday.
But the process of negotiation and possible settlement failed.
Speaking shortly after the court ruling, however, the counsel to the doctors said he would advise them accordingly and show them other options of appeal, but they would not disobey court orders.
Meanwhile, the latest reports indicated that the doctors have filed an appeal to upturn today’s ruling, emphasising that they were not given a fair hearing. The association directed its members to continue with the industrial action.
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