The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has explained why it suspended its 63-day-old-strike which paralysed public health institutions across Nigeria leaving patients and their families stranded.
The association’s newly elected president, Godiya Ishaya, who confirmed this to PREMIUM TIMES said the decision was taken after the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on Sunday through Monday morning.
He said the suspension of the strike will take effect from 8 a.m. Wednesday when the doctors are expected to return to their duty posts.
In a communique issued after Sunday’s meeting and obtained by this newspaper on Tuesday morning, the association said the decision was taken in order to give the federal government time to address its demands.
The new development, the union said, will be reviewed in six weeks.
“After critical appraisal of the performances of both federal and state governments on all the issues that led to the ongoing strike, progress made in implementing previous agreements reached with the Federal Government, the NEC resolved by the votes of a simple majority, to suspend the total and indefinite strike action embarked upon on 2nd August 2021.
“Therefore, our members will resume full work on Wednesday 6th October 2021 by 8:00 am,” the communique read.”
The communique was signed by the new NARD executive, Mr Ishaya, the president, Suleiman Ismail, the secretary general, and Alfa Yusuf, the publicity secretary.
NARD elected Mr Ishaya and other new executive members at the Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the doctors held on September 25 at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH) in Bauchi state.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the doctors began a nationwide “indefinite strike” on August 2.
The strike coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, leaving many worried that it could have serious consequences for the battle against the third wave of the pandemic.
The doctors had protested the non-implementation of life insurance for those treating COVID-19 patients; the non-funding of their residency programme, hazard allowances and some unpaid arrears.
Last year alone, medical practitioners were on strike three times over demands for allowances for treating COVID-19 patients and increment in basic salary.
The doctors had also downed tools earlier in April over similar demands.
NARD is also demanding the payment of COVID-19 treatment allowances in the absence of death-in-service insurance, having lost at least 19 of its members to the pandemic, while also protesting the shortage of manpower in public hospitals.
The government had failed in several attempts to reach an agreement with the NARD, leading to threats such as activating the “no work no pay” policy which also yielded no fruit.
As negotiations broke down, the government headed to the National Industrial Court where it secured an interim order which directed the doctors to resume work. But the adamant doctors refused to abide by the court’s order.
According to the communique issued after Sunday’s meeting, the NARD National Executive Council (NEC) confirmed that the union has once again returned to the negotiation table.
The NEC acknowledged several efforts made by the government towards resolving the lingering demands, saying payments of the Medical Residency Training Funds (MRTF) has commenced with the verified centres across the country.
It also commended what it described as “commendable level of resolutions of issues involving House Officers by the Medcal and Dental Council of Nigeria.”
“The NEC noted that migration of members from the GIFMIS to the IPPIS platform has commenced and has almost been completed.
“The NEC commended the federal government’s willingness to withdraw the case against NARD at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) and return to negotiation table in the interest of peace in the health sector.
“The NEC also noted the willingness of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to withdraw the obnoxious circular removing House Officers from the scheme of service, and also acknowledged the explanatory circular from Salaries, Income and Wages Commission in that regard,” the communique noted.
Meanwhile, the association also pointed out areas in their demands where no progress has been made.
The communique added; “The NEC observed with great concern the conditions of our members in various state government employments, especially Abia, Imo, Ekiti and Ondo States who are currently owed salaries for 21 months, six months, five months and three months respectively.
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“The NEC noted the non-resolution of the following perennial issues: a. Non-Payment of the salary Shortfalls of 2014 to 2016 to her members despite several engagements with the federal government; National Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment; delay in payment of death in service insurance benefit to the next of kin of our fallen heroes despite their sacrifices to the country, and the non-payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance to some of our members in federal and most state tertiary health institutions.”
The NEC urged the federal government to reciprocate the good faith and trust shown by the association by ensuring the conitinuous processing and payment of the ongoing 2021 MRTF, while ensuring that provision for 2022 is adequately captured in the 2022 budget; commencement of the process of withdrawing the court case against NARD as agreed, as a sign of goodwill.
The communique also listed the commencement of the process of payment of the salary arrears of its members that were just migrated to IPPIS from GIFMIS platform. It urged the state governments to urgently pay arrears of salaries and allowances owed NARD members in their various states’ tertiary health institutions.
It also urged the state governments to ensure domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act (MRTA) in their State Tertiary Health Institutions as done in Delta and Benue states.