The National Association of Resident Doctors has announced the suspension of its strike with effect from Monday (today).
The association however said its national officers would continue negotiations with stakeholders and the progress made would be reviewed in four weeks’ time during its next National Executive Council meeting.
NARD said it shelved the strike to give the government time to meet outstanding demands, following appeal by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, and other stakeholders.
NARD said this in a communiqué issued in Abuja on Sunday and signed by its President, Dr Aliyu Sokomba; Secretary-General, Dr Bilqis Muhammad; and Publicity Secretary, Dr Stanley Egbogu, after its National Executive Council meeting, attended by over 300 members.
Sokomba, who read the communiqué to journalists, said, “The NEC deliberated extensively on the ongoing NARD strike that commenced on June 15, 2020 following her Emergency General Meeting to consider the federal and state governments’ responses to the minimum requirements.
“The NEC acknowledges the provision of the Personal Protective Equipment to some hospitals. These PPEs are consumables and non-reusable, therefore the need for sustained supply.”
The union said COVID-19 inducement allowance “has only been paid to 11 federal health institutions and most state governments have yet to review the hazard allowance of health workers.”
NARD also said it observed during the meeting that the medical residency training funding had been included in the revised 2020 budget through the intervention of the Speaker, House of Representatives and would be implemented as soon as the budget was assented to by the President.
“At the same time, we await the fulfillment of the promise made by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to ensure same is done in all the states.
“On the salary shortfall for 2014-2016, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has promised to intervene. Government has shown commitment to procure group life insurance for health workers.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government lamented on Sunday that the NARD strike impacted negatively on public health.
It said the strike succeeded in putting many lives, including those of members of NARD, at risk while it lasted.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said this at a press conference he addressed in Abuja on Sunday shortly before the association suspended its strike, which he described as inexplicable.
Mohammed was joined at the press conference by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire; and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
The association had embarked on the strike at the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government on June 1.
But Mohammed said, “There is no doubt that the strike has impacted negatively on public health, putting many lives, including those of their members, at risk. This is not right and it clearly negates the Hippocratic Oath to which the doctors subscribe.
“While the Federal Government continues to engage the resident doctors in negotiation, we want to use this opportunity to appeal to them to respect their oath and put life above other considerations. This is an ill-timed and ill-considered strike.”
He said the implementation of the residency training programme was backed by the National Assembly, which provided N4bn in the revised 2020 budget, while the Ministry of Health was working with the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission to build a template to guarantee same in the Personnel Cost of 2021 Budget.
The minister said 55,031 health workers in 35 COVID-19 designated hospitals and medical centres had been paid special hazard allowances totaling N4,642,485,146.00 as of Sunday.
Mohammed said the government had also paid N9bn as premium for Group Life Insurance to all health workers.
He said, “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.”