Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) monday in Enugu issued a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government to meet their demands or face a major crisis in the sector.
The NARD President, Dr. John Onyebueze, who issued the ultimatum at a press conference in Enugu said by midnight on January 2, 2017, when the ultimatum expires, their members would have no other option but to possibly down tools.
Onyebueze also stated that doctors in all public health institutions across the country would start wearing black ward coats if the federal government failed to meet an agreement it earlier reached with NARD by the expiration of the ultimatum.
Speaking on the outcome of the extra-ordinary meeting of NARD in Abuja, Onyebueze explained that the health of Nigerian citizens was not receiving adequate attention it deserves as evidenced by the worsening health indices and dilapidated infrastructure in health institutions in the country.
He blamed the state of hospitals in the country on maladministration and inadequate planning of the Federal Ministry of Health, particularly the complacency of both the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, believed to be gearing up for Osun State governorship position and retiring Director of Hospital Services, Dr Wapada I. Balami, believed to be gearing up to replace the minister.
Part of the demands of NARD, according to Onyebueze,include urgent measures to stem the rot in the health sector and ensure access to quality healthcare for all Nigerians, adequate budgetary provisions and planning for both manpower and infrastructure development in subsequent budgets.
Onyebueze said the doctors were equally demanding that the federal government should take steps to ensure proper placement of their members with its requisite funding and immediately pay withheld salaries to their members as NARD would no longer tolerate deprivation of their members, following the ‘no work, no pay,’order of the Federal Government.
“The recent unfortunate events have made glaring the fact that NYSC medical care points lack even the most basic facilities and armamentarium to attend to the health needs of youth corps members and NYSC staff as well as guidelines for emergency care response.
“NARD commiserates with the good people of Akwa Ibom State on the recent disaster which claimed numerous lives and commends the gallant efforts of our members in the region who rose to the occasion with gusto despite the doctors their not having to receive salaries for more than three months.
“The Federal Ministry of Health is undermining staff welfare in the tertiary health institutions through improper placement of its doctors on entry and non adjustment of grade levels and steps of other doctors according to selected steps in placements.
“The Federal Ministry of Health has set out and is implementing a selective and vindictive non-payment of our members who have legally agitated for their due entitlements.
“Pensions deductions and remittances of our members have been epileptic at best, which completely negates the underlying principles of pensions. Government has been insensitive in dealing with the pension challenges of our members,” he said.
Onyebueze decried the continued delay in enrollment of their members into IPPIS despite repeated entreaties by the association for same.
He said the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency pay all outstanding salaries of their members and offset all salary shortfalls.
The NARD helmsman charged the Federal Government to implement the National Health Act 2014 and all agreements of the July 14, 2016 mediation meeting with the Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, without further delay.
He said the lapses in the administration of the Federal Ministry of Health and its poor supervision of hospitals need urgent attention and as such NARD demands the replacement of Heads of Department, Hospital Services in the Ministry, adding that it might be forced to push for change in the leadership of the Ministry, if this downward trend persists.