In an ongoing development, the Federal Government has confirmed that negotiations are currently taking place with stakeholders regarding the five-day warning strike initiated by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
The strike, which commenced on Wednesday, has raised concerns for the government.
Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, the Director of Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, stated during a press briefing in Abuja that the government is actively engaging in negotiations to address the situation promptly.
She added, “However, government, the leadership of the ministry, and relevant stakeholders are meeting to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”
The warning strike was initiated after NARD issued a notice to the Federal government, indicating that it could not guarantee further industrial harmony if the government failed to address the raised issues before May 29.
The joint letter, titled “Notice of Strike Action,” was signed by Dr Innocent Orji, the National President of NARD, and Dr Chikezie Kelechi, the Secretary-General.
The letter highlighted that NARD had previously issued a two-week ultimatum to the Federal Government, demanding the resolution of the outlined issues before its expiration on May 13.
However, the issues remained unresolved despite NARD’s efforts.
Among the demands put forth by the resident doctors is an immediate 200% increment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) from the current gross salaries of doctors.
NARD is also calling for the withdrawal of a bill that proposes compulsory service for medical and dental graduates in Nigeria for five years before obtaining full licenses to practice.
Additionally, they are advocating for the domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act and a review of Hazard Allowance by state governments.
Responding to the strike notice, Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, deemed the planned strike illegal.
He warned NARD against proceeding with the strike and emphasized that a strike is a strike, refuting the concept of a warning strike.
Ngige highlighted that the government reserves the right to withhold pay for the duration of the strike, in accordance with Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act.
He suggested that teaching hospitals could employ ad-hoc doctors and use the funds deducted from the striking doctors to compensate them. Ngige further conveyed that a meeting between the Ministry of Health and the resident doctors was scheduled for Wednesday.
In response to Ngige’s statements, Dr Innocent Orji, the President of NARD, stated that they were still awaiting the Federal Government’s call for negotiations. He expressed that threats and punitive measures would escalate the situation, urging the government to address the raised issues to avoid further escalation.
Dr Orji mentioned that if the “no work, no pay” policy was implemented, NARD members would decide on their course of action.
Despite the strike, doctors at Asokoro District Hospital in Abuja continued to attend to patients. Dr Chidi Nnabuchi, the former Head of Clinical Services, stated that while the hospital would remain open, it would operate with limited capacity. Emergency care would be provided, but it was unclear if patients would be admitted.
The number of out-patients seeking attention would also be reduced as only medical consultants, NYSC doctors, and in-house doctors were available to treat patients.
The negotiation between the Federal Government and NARD remains ongoing, and stakeholders are actively working towards resolving the strike and addressing the demands put forth by the resident doctors.