The Nigerian government has declared the industrial action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) as illegal and unwarranted.
The doctors are seeking the payment of salary arrears, proper implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by the government, adequate funding of the residency training, among others.
The country's Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, made the declaration Tuesday during the opening ceremony of a retreat themed "Action Push Agenda: Transforming Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria" organised for chairmen of boards of management, governing boards, governing councils, chief executive officers and directors of administration of tertiary hospitals and parastatals.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, the country's capital Tuesday, Prof. Chukwu said, "the strike by resident doctors was uncalled for because we were already handling the issues after our meeting with the Nigerian Medical Association. I still remember that the NMA gave us an ultimatum to look at certain issues and we had very long meeting with the NMA and indeed NARD participated in that meeting.
"There is a committee being chaired by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation in which the NMA, including NARD are well represented. These are the same matters being handled; so there were persons already in a committee handling those issues and they should have exercised some patience.
"We understand that some of the issues have not been resolved but I think we can do well and exercise some patience before going on strike because when we go on strike, peoples lives are involved."
When asked if the strike was politically motivated, he said, "for now, I don't see it as politically motivated, I see it as resident doctors getting restive. But we are appealing to them to really calm down and exercise some patience; it will all be resolved."
The minister said he had directed all government-owned hospitals which are indebted to its workers to compile the months' salaries being owed their house officers for onward transfer to the directors in charge of administration.
There had been indications that NARD would call off its strike on Monday as a result of a meeting it had with the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Emeka Nwogu, and Prof. Chukwu, which was described as 'fruitful'.
The optimism that the strike might be called off had been expressed in a statement by the Ministry of Labour's Head of Press, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, who said that the union had agreed in principle to suspend the ongoing industrial action which has entered its fifth day.
The statement said, "The decision to consider the suspension of the strike action by NARD was reached after a protracted meeting which lasted for over fourteen hours.
"In attendance at the meeting include the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chuckwu; Executive Chairman, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Ebule; and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Ambassador Sani Bala."
Mr. Olowookere explained that a resolution was reached at the meeting that resident doctors would remain on the IPPIS programme, adding that it was also agreed that the problems identified by NARD should be addressed and resolved.
Those who signed the resolution included the National President of NARD, Dr. Jubril Abdullahi; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Ambassador Sani Bala;
Source: Sahara Reporters