The Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions in Nigeria (FCHIN) has charged the Federal Government and National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to reach a compromise on the ongoing strike in the interest of Nigerians.
Chairman of the Forum, Dr. Sam Jaja, who led the leadership to a meeting with Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige in Abuja, said the forum chose a four-pronged approach to resolve the dispute, and frowned at the frequent resort to strike by doctors.
Jaja said: “… All hope was that at last week’s meeting, where all affiliates of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) except NARD signed the MOU would resolve the strike. We feel so concerned the strike hasn’t been called off.
“Strike should be the last resort, when every other effort has been exhausted in terms of finding solution to whatever the problem is. But for any little thing, you resort to disruption of services. This does not portray the country in good light. It doesn’t also portray the profession in good light, most especially a profession that has to do with preservation of human lives.
“It makes doctors insensitive and that is not right. For whatever reason, I think we should nip it in the bud. That is what we as a Forum are in for. We need to find solution to this. It is not good for us and it is not good for them. I bet that as you are solving this problem, others are warming up to start theirs. We can’t allow them to continue. We must find a permanent solution…”
Responding, Ngige again faulted the ongoing strike, describing it as unjustifiable and unwarranted, even as he said implementation of the MOU signed on August 21 with doctors was on course.
He said government has adopted a holistic approach to tackling the challenges in the health sector, noting that some of the issues in contention cut across sectors. He added that government bent backwards to improve the ease of practice of medicine in the country, despite dwindling resources.
He said: “The resident doctors are on the scheme of service against which obtained earlier. There was nothing like that when we started practice. Nigeria is also about the only country that has the Medical Residency Training Fund, backed up by an Act, Medical Residency Training Act, passed into law by this administration in 2018. Already, N4.8b is in 2021 Service Wide Vote for this – to cover exam fees, books, travel to exam centres and accommodation. We are battling to meet the timeline on this.
“Indeed, the Residency Training Fund for 2021 is a borrowed fund. It is part of the deficit budget funded by the World Bank and IMF. Now that the President has signed the law governing it, we can access this fund through the CBN and from there to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget Office and to the Accountant General of the Federation. But it is not what you achieve in a day. It takes sometime, but these young doctors will hear none of that…”
Ngige said all the issues contained in the MOU, ranging from arrears of consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage, Skipping Allowance and Bench fees, among others, have been successfully tackled at the August 20 and 21 meeting, and all NMA affiliates signed the MOU, with only NARD dissenting. The Minister urged officials in parent ministries of the unions in perennial strikes to sit up and effectively play their roles.