51 days after, resident doctors vow to continue strike

Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi

The National Association of Resident  Doctors has insisted that it will not call off its ongoing strike until its demands are met.

The association said this despite the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire’s meeting with its leadership on Monday.

The PUNCH learnt that  Monday was the first time Ehanire was meeting the leadership of NARD without the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, since the strike started 51 days ago.

Before now, Ngige has been the one spearheading meetings with representatives of NARD in a bid to end the strike.

The Secretary General of NARD, Dr Jerry Isogun, confirmed the meeting with Ehanire in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday.

Isogun said, “The minister (Ehanire) met with us for the first time on Monday, without the presence of the minister of labour and employment.

“He spoke to us and explained some things to us and said he was working really hard to make sure that issues were resolved.

“We also shared our grievances with him. He listened and he said he would get back to us and make sure that everything is resolved.”

When asked if the association had faith in Ehanire and if the strike would be called off immediately, the NARD secretary said, “Of course, we trust him and we believe he is going to do as he promised.

“Like I said, that was the first time he was meeting us and he had promised to get back. Though he didn’t say when he would do so.

“It doesn’t mean we are calling off the strike immediately. Our position still holds. Pay us our money and rectify all the outstanding issues and then strike will be called off.”

The NARD declared the strike action on July 30 at its National Executive Council meeting with the theme ‘The Nigerian doctor, an endangered species: grappling with a pandemic, poor workplace infrastructure and security threats.’

Announcing that the action would begin on August 2 after the meeting held in Umuahia, Abia State, the National President of NARD, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, cited the failure of the Federal Government to implement the agreements it signed with the union 113 days after it suspended the previous strike as the reason for the fresh strike.

Some of the demands include the migration of doctors from the GIFMIS (the government integrated financial management system) platform to the IPPIS (Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System) platform, review of hazard allowance, inconsistency in payment of salaries, death allowances for members of the association who died during COVID-19.

In a related development, members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday lamented that public hospitals in the country had been deserted  because of the strike by NARD.

The House  Committee on Health Institutions led by Pascal Obi raised this concern when the committee visited the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta,  as part of its oversight functions.

The House committee toured the medical centre and visited projects such as  the isolation centre, the intensive care unit and the molecular laboratory.

Obi urged doctors and the  Federal Government to embrace compromise so as to make healthcare accessible to the masses.

He said, “On the issue of the strike by the resident doctors, the matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction and the court will definitely do justice to it, but I am calling for compromise both from the side of the Federal Government and the side of the union of the doctors who are on strike.”

“This is what should be done in the interest of the patients because now, the hospitals have all been deserted.  The resident doctors are the ones doing most of the jobs in the hospitals.”

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