Government okays pay rise for resident doctors to halt strike
The Federal Government, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have sealed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at halting the proposed strike by resident doctors.
The MoU was signed at the end of a conciliation meeting convened by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige in Abuja. The meeting, which lasted about five hours, addressed all the eight issues raised by the striking resident doctors.
They are the non-payment of salaries of doctors by state governments, domestication of the reviewed Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) for the year 2023, the bill at the National Assembly on bonding of doctors for five years before licensing, the circular on immediate replacement of exited doctors, and immediate payment of the 2023 MRTF.
The others are arrears of Consequential Adjustment on Minimum Wage, Skipping Arrears and the review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
In the MOU, which was made available to newsmen yesterday, the contending parties agreed that health is in the concurrent list of the constitution, hence the Federal Government cannot compel the state governments to effect the payment of salaries and allowances in the health sector.
Consequently, NMA and NARD were advised to embrace more persuasion and social dialogue at the state level. Regarding Abia State where doctors have been on strike for several months for perennial non-payment of salaries, the meeting noted that the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has taken the matter to the National Council on Health (NCoH) in Abuja, which looked into the matter and asked the Abia State government to pay up for good health delivery to the people.
They equally agreed that the states cannot be compelled to domesticate the MRTF and must not pay the same amount being paid by the Federal Government.
NARD was advised to reach out to states that are not paying and negotiate with them, even if the rates are lower than that of the Federal Government.
On the bill of bonding of doctors for five years before licensing, sponsored by Ganiyu Johnson from Lagos State at the National Assembly, it was agreed that the Executive Arm of government cannot interfere with it, being a private member bill and not an executive bill.
The meeting, therefore, resolved to await the public hearing for the bill, where the doctors will deal with the bill through the NMA, to ensure it does not see the light of the day.
On the replacement of exited doctors, the meeting noted that the recommendations of the Federal Ministry of Health Brain Drain Committee have been forwarded to the office of Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) for further action.
The OHCSF was directed to engage all stakeholders by Wednesday, May 24, 2023 on the matter to ensure the approval of the implementation plan on or before June 5, 2023, for transmission to teaching hospitals and federal medical centres for implementation.
It was also agreed that the fund for the payment of the 2023 MRTF has been captured in the 2023 Appropriation and payment would commence when the operation of the 2023 Budget begins. It was noted that the budget office had requested for a comprehensive list of all resident doctors in the federal tertiary health institutions from the Federal Ministry of Health and same has been forwarded appropriately through the Ministry of Health by the Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria for payment to commence as soon as funds are cash backed by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
On the issue of doctors omitted in the payment of Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment, the meeting resolved that NARD should re-present the list on Monday, May 22, 2023 to the FMoH, with annexes of the old submission and same copied to the office of Minister of Labour and Employment.
Following information that the matter of skipping arrears is pending in court, the Minister of Labour asked the Minister of Health to produce evidence to him for noting and necessary action.
With respect to CONMESS, the meeting resolved that the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), should adopt the percentage used for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other university unions, which would include rise in allowances, while relativity of the increase would be maintained when other consolidated scales are considered.
It was agreed that the proposal would be presented to the Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS) in the next valedictory meeting for final action, to enable NSIWC issue the relevant circular seven days after the PCS meeting.
The NSIWC earlier informed the meeting that it was yet to receive any agreement between the FMoH and NMA on CONMESS. The commission said it wrote a letter to the FMoH, asking for the details of the agreement.
The meeting directed the Permanent Secretary, FMoH to provide a response to the letter on or before May 23, 2023. The Minister of Labour corroborated that he received a report of the meeting from the FMoH.
Signatories to the MOU on government’s side were Dr (Mrs) C.M. Yaya Kolade (NSIWC); Dr. Salma Ibrahim-Anas, the Director of Hospital Services, FMoH; Mahmuda Mamman, Permanent Secretary of FMoH and Okokon E. Udo, the Permanent Secretary, Service Policies and Strategies Office (SPSO), OHCSF.
The President of NMA, Dr. Uche Ojinmah and his counterpart of NARD, Dr. Emeka Orji signed on behalf of the doctors.