Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has accused the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) of connivance and tacitly giving support to the ongoing strike by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
He specifically blamed NMA President, Prof. Innocent Ujah, for not interfacing properly with the Federal Ministry of Health in resolving some of the issues that led to the current strike by members of NARD.
The minister also clarified issues relating to his recent television interview, where he made reference to the service package for residency training of doctors in the United States and United Kingdom in relation to Nigeria, stating that what he meant was that their government is not involved in payment of salaries and some aspect of the training of resident doctors such as books, examination fees among others as it’s done in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by the Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations, Charles Akpan, in Abuja, Ngige said instead of dissipating energy on interpreting his comments which at best could be regarded as an orbiter, the NMA should sit up and address the challenge of series of strike which junior doctors in NARD have been embarking on, especially the current one that started on April 1.
Speaking on the issues that led to the current strike by resident doctors, the minister said one of the demands of NARD, which is the central placement of House Officers, was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), and that it was intended that this would enable all would-be interns to be automatically absorbed into the system after their one year internship.
“This was to prevent these graduates roaming the streets for up to 12 months waiting for spaces for housemanship.
“This was meant to curb favouritism and corruption associated with their recruitment in different centres, hence, the last executive committee of the NMA was informed of the decision and they fully supported.
“This same centralised recruitment was meant for other health professionals but medical graduates were chosen for the pilot programme which was to start in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Ngige further stated that the House Officers are not members of NARD since they are medical doctors with provisional licence, but members of NMA which is the professional umbrella body for all doctors.
He further accused the NMA leadership of abdication of responsibility for protecting the resident doctors, describing it as a grave display of lack of leadership.
The minister added that the invocation of national strike by NARD over an issue that could be handled by the NMA, does not help the country.
“I am aware that the NMA president had complained that he does not get the expected cooperation or audience with the two health ministers and their officials, but that is one of the challenges faced by people in leadership; a situation that has made my ministry to play proactive roles to prevent the strike not only in health sector, but in education and other sectors.
“But the NMA president is reminded that he cannot effectively pilot the big job of the presidency of the NMA from his new seat as the vice chancellor of the new Federal University of Medical Science, Oturkpo in Benue State,” he said.