16,000 resident doctors sacked by Federal Government

THE Federal Government on Wednesday sacked all resident doctors in the country.

In a press release by the Deputy Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Health, Alhaji Isiaka Yusuf, the Federal Government said it had to do so after exploring all avenues to end the strike, which it said had compounded the health crisis in the country.

It would be recalled that the Nigeria Medical Association had directed its members natiuonwide to go on strike on July 1. The National Association of Resident Doctors, an affiliate of the NMA, has put its numerical strentgh at about 16,000.

“The situation has been compounded by the recent importation of the Ebola Virus Disease into Nigeria on July 20, 2014. Following the Presidential declaration of a National Public Health Emergency on Ebola Disease, which has united the entire country in the efforts to contain the disease, it is quite regrettable that the people who should take leadership role in the fight against the Ebola disease are now the most unsupportive,’” the statement said.

The resident doctors were unceremoniously relieved of their jobs after the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, on Wednesday, issued a directive terminating the residency training programme for doctors in the country until further notice.

The PUNCH learnt that the development, however, was without prejudice to the employment of locum doctors on six months renewable contract tied to excellent performance.

In a circular by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. L.N. Awute, to all Chief Medical Directors and medical directors in public hospitals across the country, said the development was “for the purposes of appraising the challenges in the health sector’.

“The honourable minister has directed that you issue letters of termination of Residency Training appointment to the affected Resident Doctors in your hospital immediately,’’ Awute said.

In another copy attached to the letter, the ministry also directed the CMDs to pay “salaries and allowances for one month in lieu of notice.”

“You are required to surrender all hospital property in your possession, including any staff identity card,” the statement added in the instruction to the doctors affected by the development.

The National Association of Resident Doctors, has however, described the directive as unfortunate.

In a telephone interview with our correspondent, the NARD president, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Moroof Abdulsalam said the development would be resisted. Abdulsalam who said he was not sure of the exact number of doctors affected, however disclosed that there are over 60 centres in Nigeria where residency training programmes are undertaken. According to him there are about 200 resident doctors in each of the centre.

“It came as a shock to us. As we speak, the national officers of the Nigeria Medical Association and the NARD are meeting. We are waiting for further directive.

We have told our members to remain calm in the face of this provocation. We all know that resident doctors are the engine rooms of the health sector especially in this country where we have a shortage of specialists.

That anyone would even moot the idea is unimaginable. The Lagos State Government did it two years ago and we all know what happened. We will resist this,” he said.

PUNCH.

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STRIKE: Doctors begin nationwide strike today

The Nigerian Medical Association, on Monday in Abuja, declared an indefinite nationwide strike which has been scheduled to commence today (Tuesday).

The President of the NMA, Dr. Kayode Obembe, during a press briefing on the failure of the Federal Government to address their demands and imperative of the strike, said there was no going back.

The NMA had sent 24-point demands to the government, including the discontinuation of recognition of non-medical doctors as Directors and Consultant title to any other health worker other than medical doctors.

The demands also include the appointment of a Surgeon-General of the Federation, payment of clinical duty and hazard allowances and withdrawal of the Central Bank of Nigeria circular on medical laboratory equipment.

“The NMA is taking this painful route because our silence and gentle approach to these contending issues have been taken for granted. We have to take this action in order to save the health care delivery system from anarchy that is palpably imminent. We hereby appeal to all Nigerians for their understanding and to press on the government to meet with our demands”, he stated.

Obembe stated that the failure of the government to address NMA’s demands has left the association with no other option than “to call all its members to down tool in order to press home their demands.”

Obembe said there was no way non-doctors could be allowed to function as Consultants, given that they do not oversee patients in the hospital.

He said, “A consultant is the owner of the patient; many health workers now go about acquiring Ph.D so that they can be called Doctors. The title should be restricted to only a medical doctor.”

According to him, last week’s interim injunction by the National Industrial Court has no link with the NMA as it was merely an issue between Medical and Dental Consultants Association and the government.

“Every doctor is a member of the NMA; other affiliates are allowed to operate also. We sought legal advice on the court injunction, our legal opinion is that the court order did not mention any reference to the NMA and since it did not mention NMA, we don’t want to dwell on it.”

On meetings it had with government, Obembe said, “We had a meeting with the Federal Government. We tabled our minimal demands; the government did not agree with NMA, but there is no end point. Some were referred to the court. There was no end point. While this was going on, the government was issuing out circulars favouring other health workers.”

PUNCH.

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