The Federal Government has accused the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) of playing with the lives of Nigerians who need them at this critical time.
Dr Chris Ngige, who is the Minister of Labour and Employment, made the allegation on Friday at the opening session of a meeting with the aggrieved doctors in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He warned the members of the union to stop what he described as toying with the lives of citizens in the name of pressing for better welfare.
According to the minister, neither NARD nor the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is a trade union and many Nigerians have died as a result of the industrial action by the resident doctors.
He stated that while members of the associations were entitled to some rights, they should be mindful that their actions have serious consequences.
“Nigeria is facing a serious challenge from COVID-19 at the moment. This calls for selflessness by all.
“Notwithstanding, the present administration is doing everything to ensure better welfare for our health workers who are key in the fight against the pandemic,” Ngige told the doctors.
He also asked them to abide by their Hippocratic Oath which placed on them the primary responsibility of saving the lives of their patients.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, who was also at the meeting, appealed to the doctors to end their strike.
He assured that their concerns were already being taken care of by the government, adding that it was important for them to return to work.
On their part, the doctors denied the allegations by the minister, saying they remained open to meaningful negotiation from the government.
Thereafter, the meeting went into a closed-door session while journalists await the outcome of issues discussed.
The ongoing strike by the doctors began on Thursday last week, despite a conciliatory meeting with the leadership of NARD and Ngige.
Among many other demands, the doctors called for the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.
They also demanded the immediate payment of all salary arrears, including March salaries for members in all Federal (GIFMIS platform) and State Tertiary Health Institutions across the country, especially ASUTH, IMSUTH, and UNIMEDTH.
NARD sought an upward review of the current hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary Institutions.
They also called for the abolishment of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by their members on outside postings in all training institutions across the country with immediate effect.
According to the doctors, salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015, and 2016 should be paid to their members in all federal institutions, including state-owned institutions as earlier agreed with the government.
They asked for the payment of death in service insurance for all health workers who died as a result of COVID-19 infection or other infectious diseases in the country.