The federal government has explained why it ordered the immediate sack of resident doctors in federal hospitals as well as the suspension of residency programmes in teaching hospitals.
A statement from the Federal Ministry of Health premised the directive on the 6-week long strike embarked on by doctors, who it said “regrettably” have sabotaged government efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola disease with their continued strike and failure to assume the leadership role in the fight against the epidemic following the Presidential declaration of a National Public Health Emergency on the Disease.
The full text of the statement reads:
“The public may recall the protracted strike action by members of the Nigeria Medical Association consequent on which untold hardship has befallen innocent members of the society who were in need of medical care.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) made good its threat of 11th June 2014 by calling out its members on industrial strike action on the 1st of July despite the Federal Government’s successive intervention meetings and dialogue including extensive deliberations with the leadership of the NMA on 25th and 26th June 2014, where agreements were reached on each of the 24 demands and an MoU was signed by both parties.
In the midst of the strike action, the Federal Government had also cultivated the attention and intervention of some eminent personalities in order to prevail on the NMA leadership to respect the ethics of their profession and end the strike whilst the dialogue is ongoing. These personalities included the Governor of Delta State, the Secretary to Government of the Federation, members of the National Assembly especially the Senate and House Committees on Heath respectively, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Chairman, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, the Honourable Ministers of Health and Labour and Productivity, the Honourable Minister of State for Health, Presidents and Registrars of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, the West African College of Physicians and West African College Surgeons, traditional rulers, eminent and senior members of the medical profession and past executives of the NMA.
It should be stressed that the Federal Government has implemented more than 90 percent of its responsibilities as signed by both parties. At the conclusion of each meeting, the NMA promised to call off the strike but would return another day to say that they could not.
For the whole of July 2014, these doctors did not work yet government, owing to the emergency situation in our country, paid them the July salaries with allowances such as call duty allowance, teaching allowance, hazard allowance, etc, believing that this magnanimity of government would appeal to reason for NMA to call off the strike.
This strike action can be considered as one of the most insensitive steps to be taken by any association or a labour union in the history of this country. Pertinent to the issue under discussion are the current security challenges in the country with the attendant mass casualties. The situation has been compounded by the recent importation of the Ebola Virus Disease into Nigeria on 20th July 2014.
Following the Presidential declaration of a National Public Health Emergency on Ebola Disease which has united the entire country in the efforts to contain the disease, it is quite regrettable that the people who should take leadership role in the fight against Ebola disease are now the most unsupportive. All efforts by Government to contain this disease are being frustrated by the continued industrial strike action of the NMA.
The Federal Government has therefore decided that Residency Training Programme in Federal Government Hospitals be suspended pending the conclusion of the ongoing appraisal of the challenges in the health sector.
This directive is without prejudice to any emergency measure that may be necessary for the hospital management to immediately restore full medical services.
The Federal Government wishes to reassure the public that optimal medical health care delivery will be sustained in our hospitals.
Alhaji Isiaka Yusuf
Deputy Director of Press
Federal Ministry of Health.”