The Minister explained that some of the issues, such as the abolition of the ‘Bench fees’ by Resident doctors and their health institutions payable to sister hospitals were abolished on the negotiating table.
He, however, stated that the outstanding issues, which came up at the last conciliation, were time-lined along with a month lifespan of implementation, as they are still work in progress.
He said: “NARD made some of the demands in ignorance. They didn’t have the full picture. Maybe they wished for a strike or their president pushed them into strike so that his name will go into the annals of NARD as one of the tough presidents that have taken them on strike. That’s wrong.
“The unilateral repudiation of the Memorandum of Action by NARD’s President is unknown in Labour negotiation.
“He didn’t participate in most of the discussions last Wednesday, because he fell ill not quite long after the meeting started and had to excuse himself. He handed over to his deputy, the Secretary-General and other officers of the association, who fully participated…
“The two parties to the negotiation signed the MoA. Four officers from government and three from NARD signed the document and the President, who was not at the meeting, but fully represented by deputies went to NARD’s NEC and disowned the paper because they were signed by his deputy and secretary-general. There is what is called transmission of power…”
The Minister also condemned attempts by NARD to impose a fait accompli on the Federal Government while the negotiation was ongoing.
“When a trade dispute has been apprehended, no party imposes a fait accompli on the other. We signed a memorandum that says NARD would go back to its members to educate them on what was agreed on, the timelines placed on them, with a view to not disturb the industrial milieu in the health sector. And we agreed to reconvene after four weeks.”
He explained that the reason was to allow enough time to implement the issues in the timeline, some of which would take three weeks before reconvening.
He dismissed as untrue, allegation that doctors in public health institutions across the country are not insured, and said the Federal Government spent N13.3b in 2020 on group life insurance, not just on doctors and health workers, but also for workers in the federal civil and public service.
On the Medical Residency Programme, which is the major reason for fresh action by NARD, the Minister declared that the programme has been working hitch-free since it came up in 2019 and that the House of Representatives had to do a supplementary appropriation to accommodate it in the 2020 COVID-19budget and the funds have been fully released by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
He, therefore, urged doctors to respect the Hippocratic oath, which makes patients’ wellbeing cardinal.