The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) says its members will not be embarking on industrial action.
The association’s President, Dr Innocent Orji, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He said “the industrial action has been shelved for now as negotiations are ongoing with necessary government bodies to meet the demands of the association.
“The National Executive Council (NEC) of the association has mandated the National Officers Committee to engage the Federal Government further on issues already outlined and revert back to it if the need arises.
“We took this decision in the public interest and peculiarities of the moment.”
NAN reports that the association had on Jan. 11, written a letter to the Federal Government addressing the Ministers of Health and Labour and Employment and other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The letter was titled “Imminent Nationwide Industrial Disharmony in Health Sector: A Matter of Urgent Administrative Importance”.
In the letter, the resident doctors said there were lingering unresolved issues affecting their members and if those issues were not resolved before its NEC meeting between Jan. 24 and Jan. 28, there may be industrial action.
Those issues include irregularities in the new circular on upward review of the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), outstanding payment of the arrears of the new hazard allowance and non-payment of the skipping arrears for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Also, non-payment of the consequential adjustment of minimum wage to some of its members, delay in the upward review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), salary arrears of its members in State Tertiary Health Institutions running into
several months, including Abia, Imo, Ondo, Ekiti and Gombe States.
It also stated the non-domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act (MRTA) in most states across the federation as one of the pending issues.
The letter read in part: “We sincerely appreciate the efforts of government through its MDAs in resolving some of the issues raised.
“However, many of them remain largely unresolved and have now become sources of serious nationwide agitation threatening industrial peace and harmony in the health sector.
“Sir, our January 2023 NEC meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 24 to 28, and we can confirm very clear feelers that if these issues are not sorted out before that meeting, our members will likely give us mandate to immediately kick-start processes that will lead to a nationwide industrial disharmony in the health sector.
“Sir, we know how critical this period is and the chaos that will ensue if government does not take steps to prevent this from happening, and so we humbly implore you to use your good offices to resolve these issues before our January NEC meeting.
“Sir, we trust in your fatherly disposition and believe that you will come to our aid and save this nation from this imminent industrial disharmony.”
However, after the said meeting which took place in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, the association, in a communique, made certain resolutions.
It urged the Federal Government to without further delay commence the process of payment of the MRTF for 2023 to enable its members use the funds for the February update courses and the March/April/May examinations.
“The NEC, however, wishes to remind the government of the few persons yet to be paid the nine months arrears, as well as the yet-to-be-paid four months arrears of the hazard allowance owed all our members.
“The NEC urges the government to hasten efforts to complete these payments to avoid the recurrence of these issues in future engagements with NARD.
“The NEC asks the Federal Government to urgently pay the skipping arrears for 2014, 2015, and 2016, as well as the shortfall from the consequential adjustment of the minimum wage to deserving members as the patience of the association is waning concerning this matter.”
The association also demanded that the activities of the committee set up for the review of the CONMESS be hastened and that NARD should be carried along in the processes for her inputs to be made to avoid unnecessary outcomes.
It, however, welcomed the committee set up by the federal government to mitigate the brain drain in the health sector, and urged a speedy conclusion of their task and immediate implementation of their recommendations to improve healthcare service delivery and reduce the emigration of skilled healthcare workers from the country.
The association urged the Ministry of Health to expedite action on the “one-for-one” policy on the replacement of exited doctors and clinical staff to help reduce the acute shortage of manpower in hospitals and its attendant effect on the psyche and health of healthcare workers.