Citing COVID-19, Ondo Govt Suspends Resident Doctors

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· ARD describes action as dismissal of doctors

James Sowole in Akure

The Ondo State Government has suspended residency programmes at the University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital (UNIMETH) justifying its decision on the need to fight COVID-19 without distraction.

However, the Association of Residency Doctors (ARD) disputed the claim of the state government, describing the suspension of the residency programme at the teaching hospital as the dismissal of the resident doctors.

The decision of the state government was contained in a letter UNIMETH’s Director of Administration, Mr. Babatunde Adeeyo addressed to the doctors on June 23, disclosing that the residency programme of the institution would be suspended from August 1.

Specifically, the letter urged all resident doctors at the hospital to seek continuation of their programme in other institutions where there are ongoing training programs.

Among other demands, the resident doctors under the aegis of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) had embarked on a strike over non-payment of their salaries.

Spokesman of Ondo ARD, Dr. Taiwo Olagbe, listed their demands to include provision of PPE and other security measures to save their members from COVID-19, payment of outstanding arrears from September 2019 to May 2020, payment of 50 percent COVID-19 allowance amongst others.

Reacting to the suspension of the residency programme, Chief Medical Director of UNIMEDTH, Dr. Oluwole Ige, blasted the residents doctors saying they were more interested in unionism than commitment to work.

Ige said the resident doctors were the most disruptive group to the growth of the hospital despite earning the best pay package among other groups of doctors in the hospital.

Ige stated that the good things happening at the hospital were being overshadowed by the constant agitation of the resident doctors.

He said the resident doctors “earn the best pay package among the four group of doctors in the hospital with the additional benefit of training and advancing to be consultants.

“They have exaggerated and deliberately distorted the issues of their wage to the extent of putting the hospital management and government into disrepute. The training programme might be suspended until such a time that it will be conducive to train without rancour.”

However, the ARD spokesman described Ige’s comment and the action of the state government as a joke that could crumble the health sector in the state.

Olagbe said comments from the CMD were regrettable and unfortunate stating that their agitations were genuine because of non-payment of salaries and arrears.

In a statement yesterday, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo said the state government did not sack medical doctors but only planned to suspend residency programmes.

Ojogo said whatever issues led to the strike action by the doctors under the Residency Programme and the reprimand by the management of UNIMED Teaching Hospital are currently being looked into and would be resolved by Monday, hopefully.

He said: “Government, therefore, wishes to urge the general public to be wary of those who have chosen to creep into an unavailable political space. This is a purely administrative and professional issue attracting a desirable attention and must not be politicised in any form.

“We wish to therefore emphasize that at no time did the state government sack doctors as the public is being made to erroneously believe. It should be noted that the UNIMED Residency arrangement is the first since the establishment of the nation’s premier medical university.

“It is mostly undertaken by the federal government as many states do not find financial space for such. Nonetheless, it is pertinent to clarify that there is a wide difference between doctors employed by the state government and those under a Residency Programme.

“The residency is a post graduate programme usually sponsored by governments even as such beneficiaries render services for a specific period. In effect, doctors under the Residency Programme are more or less, temporary staff members who qualify as consultants after their period of training.”

The commissioner therefore urged members of the public to disregard the noise being made that the government has sacked doctors.