Lagos meets striking doctors, urges them to return to work
The Lagos State Government has met with the representatives of the striking medical doctors in the state.
The joint meeting, attended by the Honourable Commissioners for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, Establishments, Training and Pensions, Mrs Ajibola Ponnle and the Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola as well as all the permanent secretaries of the Ministry of Health, Establishment and Information, was held on Sunday the 12th July, with the Medical Guild, Association of Resident Doctors and relevant stakeholders on the proposed warning strike.
The meeting was convened at the instance of the Hon. Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions after a series of meetings held at the instance of the Head of Service on behalf of stakeholders in the State Government with the representatives of the Medical Guild, National Association of Residents Doctors (NARD), LASUTH branch and other relevant stakeholders to deliberate on the issues underlying the strike called by the Medical Guild.
The Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo, who appreciated the government for convening the meeting, outlined the position of the Guild on the various issues which include; Shortage of doctors in the State, Heavy Taxation of Health Workers, Request for Residential Quarters, Entry Point Skipping Policy for Doctors, Hazard Allowance for Health Workers, COVID19 Insurance Cover, Medical Residency Programme, Personal Protection Equipment, Involvement of the Guild in COVID19 Response Committee amongst others.
The state government expresses extreme disappointment that the Guild continued with their warning strike despite a series of engagements with the State Government aimed at resolving some of the grievances raised, noting that many issues have already been resolved, whilst unresolved issues are still being deliberated upon.
“It is worrisome that some members of this noble profession would down tool at a time when their services are mostly required,” Lagos State information commissioner Gbenga Omotosho said in a statement. “We believe this action is insensitive and lacks empathy which our profession epitomizes.”
“The state government, therefore, requests the members of the medical Guild who embarked on a three-day warning strike today to return back to work.”
Omotosho also denied that medical workers were sacked without reasons by the government. He said those who are providing care to those in COVID-19 isolation centres are being rotated and others are returned to their primary duty posts.
“Healthcare professionals are returning to their primary posting for the following reasons: to reduce fatigue and burn out amongst health workers; to build capacity for treatment of COVID19 across the health workforce and to ensure that as many health workers as possible benefit from the additional allowances,” Omotosho said.
On non-payment of COVID19 allowances for May and June, Omotosho said: “LASG started paying extra special COVID allowances for frontline workers who are involved directly with the Lagos State COVID-19 response. This was put in place before any other State in the nation with payments as high as N672,000 per month in addition to their normal remuneration packages for each cadre and which represents financial incentives over and above that paid by the Federal counterparts.
“In fact, where discrepancies exist between Federal and State allowances, Lagos State has paid the difference to ensure parity. Payments for March and April were made on time however in order to ensure uniformity and accuracy of the allowances, due diligence measures had to be put in place before subsequent month’s payments were approved. As we speak these payments have been approved and being received by the workforce. Additionally, all healthcare professionals receive a hazard allowance which has been temporarily increased by 400% at the discretion of Mr Governor periodically during this period.
Omotosho also addressed the disparity between the salaries of federal and state health workers. According to him, “the Skipping Policy adopted by some Federal institutions is responsible for this, as the new Minimum wage in Lagos State places all members of the State above the Federal level.
“Information received from Federal Government Medical Centres indicates that the Skipping Policy which places the Federal counterparts one Grade Level above the State is the basis of this disparity. It is important to note that this is not in conformity with the Scheme of Service agreed by the National Council of Establishment and is a subject of litigation in the Federal Court of Appeal and therefore the State Government cannot implement such a policy until Judgment is delivered.”
On the alleged “heavy taxation of health workers, the commissioner for information said it was made clear to the Guild that the Personal Income Tax Act is standard to all and calculated on the basis of the tax table.
He said, “a meeting has been scheduled with Officials of LIRS for this week with a view to exploring ways of reducing the tax burden. Mr Governor has also approved the exemption of the Hazard allowance from tax for State health workers.”