A nationwide industrial action by Resident Doctors is due to commence on Monday, June 20th, 2016.
The strike action, billed as total, indefinite and uninterrupted, comes following failure of the Federal Government to yield to legitimate agitations by the noble group.
In a build-up to the D-day, the National President of the Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Muhammad Askira has chronicled the events that have led Nigerian doctors to this point.
His full statement below:
Good day, my leaders and fellow NARDITEs.
We have found ourselves yet in another time of our lives when we have to agitate collectively to get things done rightly for the sake of our profession and our nation through our Association.
We are forced by the unfortunate attitude of some powerful few to embark on an AVOIDABLE NATIONWIDE INDEFINITE STRIKE ACTION from tomorrow the 20th of June, 2016.
My comrades, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has done fully well what any responsible professional group should do. It is the the Government and her agents and agencies that feel NIGERIANS MUST SUFFER through another cycle of avertable disruption of services.
We have first of all given a 21-Day Ultimatum which started from 4th April, 2016. Immediately, the Honourable Minister of Health came on air and told Nigerians that doctors would not go on this strike, that the government would intervene and resolve the matter before the end of the ultimatum. Few days later NARD was in attendance when NMA (Nigeria Medical Association) visited His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and the matter was raised and the President told us that his government is ready to honour all signed agreements reached with the previous regimes. The Honourable Minister of Health again posited that he would ensure all other items were sorted out and so fixed a meeting on 11th of April.
The meeting of 11th of April was held and a lot of issues were deliberated on and timelines were agreed for achieving all the actionable plans, with each action designated to a particular office and officers. We all agreed a review meeting should take place on 25th April in far away Sokoto to ascertain the level of achievements and progress made. Throughout that period, the National Officers Council (NOC) of NARD and other negotiators stayed back to resolve the impasse. We had series of meetings with other relevant Government agents and agencies.
Finally, we were in Sokoto for a review meeting that was never to be. Why? All the principal officers of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) were in Sokoto and NARD was also in Sokoto, but the review meeting which was supposed to be a tangible position to avert the commencement of a looming strike action was never held. Why? Was it because the various actionable plans were not carried out by the designated officers or was there a grand design to frustrate the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and put her in bad light? This was happening at the time when the President was reassured that the issues would be sorted out before the 25th of April.
That notwithstanding, NARD had her Extraordinary National Executive Council (NEC) meeting there in Sokoto and went ahead to extend the period of the ultimatum by another two weeks just to ensure the goodwill shown by President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly is not jettisoned.
All the above concessions from NARD came in despite the overt threat and disdain the leadership of the FMOH showed to NARD during the period of the ultimatum.
Between the period of extension of the ultimatum till the time of review by NARD on the 8th of May, FMOH did not deem it fit to communicate to NARD the level of progress made on those items in the actionable plans. But our independent inquiry revealed no significant progress was made, even the items that squarely could be handled at the level of the FMOH were not really done. This we consider as pure levity.
Despite these, NARD decided to embark on a five-day warning strike (including weekends just to alleviate the gross impact on the poor populace) instead of the planned indefinite strike. That was when the first item was given some level of serious attention, when the committee to restructure Residency Training was inaugurated (a committee formed on 11th April had to wait for a warning strike before it was inaugurated 18th of May). Since then nothing much could be said about the committee.
NARD had to painstakingly wait till the one week period of Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) in Jos before a final definitive action was streamlined. This not only became necessary but inevitable going by the gross levity shown by the FMOH in handling our legitimate demands.
As a body with human face, not ignorant of the negative effects of industrial actions, NARD went ahead to stagger the action from center-based to a nationwide action with a two-week window to enable any serious government to intervene. Luckily, the Hon. Speaker of the NASS swiftly intervened and appealed for a week’s grace before the nationwide action which was graciously granted.
Much to our chagrin, the Hon. Speaker couldn’t hold the said meeting on 14th of June because the leadership of the FMOH was not able to attend. Where would they have gone to? What duty were they attending to that was of greater importance than the health and lives of innocent Nigerians directly under their care? This is a display of unseriousness and a clear sense of levity and utter disregard for the sanctity of lives and health of Nigerians.
I am very sure a meeting at the level of the Hon. Speaker (the number four citizen of the country) is a positive development in resolving the crisis and averting the sufferings of poor Nigerians already experiencing difficult times in this crunchy economy. All these efforts had been successfully delayed by the FMOH. All the sufferings now due to the ongoing center-based strike is due entirely to this needless delay caused by the FMOH. And also, the nationwide indefinite strike to commence on 20th June, 2016 is due squarely to this deliberate delay caused by the FMOH.
NOW THE QUESTIONS ARE CLEAR:
Are there people in government who are deliberately sabotaging the good intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Or is our FMOH being manned by grossly incapable and incompetent lots?
Or l are there people in the FMOH still deceiving NIGERIANS and President Muhammadu Buhari that they are on top of the issues when in reality they are doing absolutely nothing?
Is there confusion in the leadership of the FMOH?
It is the responsibility of any Federal Minister of Health to prioritise the health and lives of Nigerians. It beats any reasonable imagination for a FMOH to be found neglecting such responsibility at such a crucial time when there exists a palpable dispute with sizeable number of the biggest Federal Teaching Hospitals already in strike mode. Any responsible Ministry would act more swiftly than what is presently obtainable.
Is a conference in Boston more important than a meeting with the Hon. Speaker to avert a strike of doctors? Is Boston in the moon or the stars that it is too far for any serious Minister to come down so as to avert this avoidable dispute? Definitely, the Hon. Speaker could not hold such a meeting without the Honourable Minister of Health (HMH). It was not just a jamboree, the NASS genuinely wants to intervene and they could only do that when officers that can take policy decisions attend such a high level meeting where the Minister must be around!
Or does the FMOH still expect President Muhammadu Buhari to come down and represent the Federal Government at such a meeting? These are pertinent questions and these are the reasons why NARD has towed this painful path.
Now NARD IS GOING TO COMMENCE NATIONWIDE INDEFINITE STRIKE ON 20th June, 2016.
We call on all our members to ensure 100% compliance.
Our demands affect all doctors in all institutions.
What we must do is to get it right collectively.
The above brief is a clear testimony that NARD is forced to take this action due to the failure from the FMOH.
As a reminder, these are some of our demands:
1. REMUNERATION INJUSTICE
a) Our members in some States have spent months with either no salaries or fractions of salaries. No body is saying or doing anything, we all hide under the pretext that it is all the workforce in such States that are affected. But are doctors just like all other Civil servants? NO. Then who is responsible to make that point clear? We must be the ones to make it clear that Doctors are not just like any other civil servants, we are the ones that attend to all Nigerians that are sick and we are the ones that are statutorily responsible for the healthcare and well being of all Nigerians.
Our state members are the ones responsible for the healthcare of most Nigerians who are less privileged, those who constitute the largest portion of the populace, majority of those who can’t even afford to attain care in federal tertiary hospitals let alone travel abroad for any ailments. Most of these people suffer from all kinds of terrifying tropical diseases, preventable and endemic. They suffer from varying degrees of epidemics. And all are being seen and cared for by the doctors in the States. Are these doctors just like any civil servants in the state? NO. I SAY NO!
Therefore, the government, both at the State and the Federal levels, must prioritise the welfare and conditions of service rendered by these patriotic Nigerian doctors, who serve the underprivileged. Not doing that by any government is tantamount to sentencing our NIGERIANS to untimely death from prevalent diseases. Doctors salaries must be paid in full and as at when due.
We must ensure universal applicability of Government circulars and policies to curtail the trend of internal brain drain and also strengthen our primary and secondary levels of care in order to ensure efficient affordable Universal Health Coverage.
b) The skipping of a grade level done for non-doctors in all our federal tertiary hospitals excluding doctors, despite availability of circulars and enough money released for the various hospitals to that effect, is a testimony of the zenith of injustice in our hospitals. All accrued arrears from these injustice must also be paid in lump sum.
Who are those promoting these injustices? Our CEOs, and they are all Medical Doctors. Even those that have started implementation, they are doing it out of duress and even conspiring on how to scuttle it for doctors alone (we are aware of the conspiracy going on already, when a confused Government official said that they are going to review some of the signed agreements due to financial realities).
c) House Officers Entry Step
What have our youngest colleagues done wrong to deserve such neglect from us? Is it a crime that they are successful as doctors or what? It beats my imagination when a CEO is ready to adjust the entry steps for other interns but finds it laborious and impossible to do it for House Officers despite the clarity of circulars.
d) Doctors in FMC OWERRI were not on strike in December 2015, so if the Federal Government decided to shut down the hospital due to agitations by non-doctors, I don’t think it is fair to deny medical doctors their rightful entitlements. The doctors can decide to say they don’t want anybody in any position. It is their personal views and that must be respected and should not warrant withholding their December 2015 salaries. Now that some people (non-doctors) are shouting, baselessly, that ‘PSH must go’ in the FMOH Headquarters, are they not paid their May salaries? This is another clear case of injustice.
Our members in most hospitals are getting just fractions of salaries for months and years and some are yet to get their outstanding 10-months relativity arrears.
2. RESIDENCY TRAINING PROGRAM (RTP)
a) Incessant, undue and unfair sack of Resident doctors without recourse to extant documents.
This is perpetrated in most of our Training Institutions out of vendetta, with the support from some of the trainers, sadly. The Residents doctors make up the largest medical workforce in our Tertiary Hospitals. We render effective services, do rigorous training and partake in indepth research. All these we do out of sheer national patriotism and prosperity as we decided to stay back and serve our nation rather than seek for greener pastures abroad as done by most of our colleagues that are now abroad. Also, we do that to give less privileged Nigerians the opportunity to access specialist care right at their doorsteps.
b) Lack of adequate funding for the training program both at the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) and the Training Institutions, despite the fact that it is the only postgraduate medical training program in Nigeria for producing specialist medical manpower that give ordinary Nigerians specialist care in Ear, Nose and Throat, etc. Focus is ordinary Nigerians that can’t afford overseas medical tourism!
c) Victimization of our members by Managements of Hospitals just for taking part in our NARD activities and strike actions. Most especially, threats to House Officers, especially at this time of our germane agitations. You hardly see such threats flying against the non-doctors and their interns. Why is it so? Who are those perpetrators? Our CMDs.
d) Lack of uniform guidelines for RTP. All previous reports are jettisoned. Even though a committee has been inaugurated for over a month, it could not start deliberations due to unnecessary bottlenecks in the FMOH.
3. WE WANT TO BE ENROLLED INTO IPPIS PLATFORM. WHY? We are fed up with hospitals using our names to bloat their personnel costs just to siphon money. Many, if not all the Federal Tertiary Hospitals, have enough releases to implement full salaries for doctors, but they all decided not to. And here we are, some people do not want us to seek for our rights. Is that possible?
We also seek for a FORENSIC PERSONNEL AUDIT OF ALL DOCTORS in our hospitals to ensure all ghosts are exorcised. All these Federal Teaching Hospitals have already been given enough to pay our full emoluments under the regular platform but they decided to do otherwise. We have all the records and we are going to stand firmly to get all our accrued arrears.
These are the issues in our demands.
What amongst them above is not justifiable?
What are our challenges?
1. Our biggest challenge comes from our hospitals and from the CMDs.These are conglomerates of corrupt incompetent administors that are colluding with JOHESU to either use our agitations to get more moneys to steal or scuttle the agitations so that doctors don’t get their entitlements.
2. The FMOH is also a problem. Here we have a combination of fantastic incompetence, monumental sabotage and gross palpable confusion put in perfect mix to prevent doctors from their entitlements. This is clearly demonstrated by the recent posture of the FMOH. If the Hon. Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives is willing to intervene to avert the nationwide escalation of this dispute, then the leadership of FMOH shouldn’t ever be reason for such efforts to be delayed. A peak of above three components (sabotage, incompetence and confusion) in glare display!
3) Then finally, some of our senior colleagues. These are sets of selfish opportunistic psychopants that are always greedily expecting favours from government appointees. They always think they can get favours by thwarting any agitation(s) from doctors. Most of these elements are scattered everywhere in our mix. Some are even in our Noble Association as leaders.
Sadly, all the above are perpetrated by doctors.
For NARD, we have done our best. We have constructively engaged the government for years on these demands. We have given ultimatum from 21 days, we extended to 35 days yet the representatives of government were busy lying to the President, while they are doing absolutely nothing.
In a nutshell, President Muhammadu Buhari has given our health sector to obviously clueless persons to manage. This is evident in the recent review of the health sector in the past one year. The earlier the President realizes these shortcomings and put in reliable immediate remedies, the best for the sector. Otherwise, the promise of democratic dividends will never reach ordinary Nigerians. The only dividend of democracy accessible to the underprivileged is uninterrupted affordable health care services. And this is the responsibility of the leadership of the FMOH and it is obvious that the Ministry is busy playing politics with the health and lives of innocent Nigerians.
NARD SHALL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR THE EMANCIPATION OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION.
My fellow comrades, never allow any cheap blackmail to deter you from this collective effort. Many unscrupulous people, some from within us, will like to distract you from this noble struggle. Please check the history and check their stories, have they ever fought for your rights before? You will always find in the canals of our history and stories how NARD and her sincere leaders fought gallantly for the soul of our noble profession.
My comrades, check out, all what we enjoy today were fought for us by our true leaders through our great NARD.
MANY OF OUR ENEMIES WANT TO DISCOURAGE YOU FROM NARD TODAY BECAUSE THEY ARE SURE THAT ONLY NARD TRULY PROTECTS THE MEDICAL PROFESSION AND THEY THOUGHT NOW IS THE TIME TO DESTROY NARD. THEY ARE WRONG.
WE MUST STAND TOGETHER AND COLLECTIVELY SO.
WE START OUR NATIONWIDE INDEFINITE STRIKE TOMORROW 20TH JUNE, 2016.
LONG LIVE NARD!
LONG LIVE OUR ONLY FATHERLAND THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!
GOD BLESS US AND OUR SINCERE STRUGGLES
Dr. Muhammad Askira