The Latest Strike Threat By The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA)

HEALTH - Prof Onyebuchi-Chukwuu
HEALTH – Prof Onyebuchi-Chukwuu
The attention of the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu has been drawn to the latest threat of strike by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), purportedly over the of lack of commitment by the Federal Government to the implementation of agreements reached with the association on 9th September 2013.
The allegations are misleading. The status of issues contained in the communique signed with the association is as follows:
Delay in the reconstitution of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). The Boards/Councils of 14 Health Professional Regulatory bodies, including the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) have been reconstituted by the President. They were inaugurated by the Honourable Minister of Health on the 25th of November, 2013
Problems with the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in Federal tertiary Hospitals A Taskforce set up for the purpose of on-the-spot evaluation of the hitches observed at the index hospitals enrolled into IPPIS,  has completed its assignment and following from their recommendation,  the emoluments of certain category of personnel, such as interns, shall now be funded directly from the budget office. Provisions were made for this in the 2014 budget.  The IPPIS is also to be test-run for the various health institutions before they are fully enrolled into IPPIS to avoid the identified pitfalls.
Funding of the Residency Training Programme In spite of the challenges, modalities for funding of the programme, which is needs-based, have been worked out and directives given to all institutions for their compliance. The quest for improved funding is an on-going programme in which the NMA and its affiliates are participating fully.
Retreat for Chairmen of Boards, CMDs/MDs and Directors of Administration of Federal Tertiary Hospitals. The retreat held from the 7th-8th of October, 2013 as agreed.
Distortion in relativity in the pay of doctors vs other health workers, professionalism, hierarchical order, misapplication of nomenclatures and review of conditions of service, including retirement age of doctors. A high-powered committee comprising the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation as Chairman, five representatives of the NMA, the Chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Productivity and the Director of Human Resources, FMOH, was constituted by Government to look into the matter. This committee has deliberated fully on all the matters placed before it and submitted its report and recommendations on the 30th of October, 2013.
It is instructive to note that parri passu with the activities of the committee headed by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the Honourable Minister of Health facilitated the granting of an audience to the leadership of the NMA by President Jonathan. At this meeting, the NMA President had the full attention of Mr. President for over 40 minutes and within a week of this meeting, the President  had a 3-hour session with the the Honourable Minister of Health and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the issues presented by the NMA.
On the issue of security for doctors who seem to be targets of kidnappers at the Federal Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, the Honourable Minister of Health got the Inspector General of Police to beef up security in the hospital and its environs, including Ekpoma where many of the health personnel of the hospital reside.
Having been party to virtually all the processes leading to the point we are now in resolving the areas of contention, and especially having been privy to the efforts made by the Honourable Minister of Health  on the matter, it cannot be lost on the NMA leadership that a preponderance of the issues presented and the recommendations made cannot be decided upon by fiat by government. Some of them must necessarily await final determination by the courts while others require either legislative action or scheduled meetings of policy-making organs of government such as the National Council on Establishment or even the general Job Evaluation Exercise which is soon to be carried out by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC).
Clearly, the Federal Government has shown a strong commitment and responsiveness to the grievances of NMA. What is needed is patience while the due processes take place to arrive at a final and fair resolution of all outstanding issues.
A strike action to deny medical services to the populace during this festive season is unnecessary.  A lot has already been achieved by the ongoing dialogue between the government and the NMA and the rest will follow soon.
The NMA should heed the appeal of the Minister of Health,  the appeal of fellow compatriots who presently need medical attention,  and of well-meaning Nigerians not to embark on strike.
Dan Nwomeh
Special Assistant on Media and Communication to the Minister


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