•N5bn hazard allowance, PPEs, other demands met
•Says strike action by doctors uncalled-for
By our Correspondent
The Federal Government has disclosed that it has paid the sum of N9 billion as premium for Group Life Insurance to all health workers, and another N4,642,485,146.00 as Special Hazard Allowance paid to them to raise their morale in the fight against coronavirus.
This, the government said, was part of the response to boost the condition of service of all health workers in the country including resident doctors who have called a strike action to press home demands for better working conditions.
The government position is coming just as resident doctors, under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) have embarked on a 14-day warning strike to press for a six-point demand.
Their demands include the following:
Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all health workers;
Immediate reversal of the disengagement of 26 resident doctors at Jos University Teaching Hospital;
Immediate implementation of the Special Hazard Allowance and COVID-19 Inducement Allowance which was initiated by federal government, and capturing of funding for Medical Residency Training Programme in the 2021 appropriation bill.
Other demands of the striking doctors include payment of all arrears of consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage to its members and implementation of such in the State tertiary health institutions, and;
State Governments that had slashed the members’ salaries by as much as 25%, like Kaduna and Kogi, to be made to stop and refund such.
Three Ministers yesterday said at a press conference in Abuja that all the demands made by the doctors are being met, and as such the strike action should be called off immediately to allow for smooth implementation of the resolutions.
The ministers include that of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, and the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.
A statement read by Lai Mohammed at the briefing noted that already, the “issues raised by the Association, while issuing its ultimatum on June 1st, have received or are receiving full attention:”
He said “Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, have been supplied to all State and Federal Tertiary Hospitals and funds for the same have been provided in the revised 2020 budget.
“ Implementation of the Residency Training programme was backed by the National Assembly, which provided ₦4 billion in the revised 2020 budget, while the Ministry of Health is working with the Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to build a template to assure same in the Personnel Cost of 2021 Budget.
“Please note that the payment of COVID-19 Special Hazard Inducement allowances are based on 4 templates: 50% of Consolidated Basic Salary to all workers in Covid-19 designated Hospitals and Centre; 40% of Consolidated Basic Salary to health workers in Non-Covid-19 designated Centres and Hospitals; 10% of Consolidated Basic Salary to Non-Health Professionals engaged in those centres; and 20% of Consolidated Basic Salary special allowance to all health workers directly managing Covid-19 patients in Treatment and Isolationv Centres”
Lai Mohammed added that a total of 55,031 Health workers in 35 Covid-19 designated hospitals and medical centres have been paid Special Hazard Allowance totalling N4,642,485,146.00 as of today and more payments are being processed .
According to him, other matters relating to non-payment of arrears dating as far back as 2014 or salaries owed by State Governments, are either in court, or beyond the power of the Federal Ministry of Health to resolve.
He said after the 14-day ultimatum was issued, negotiations were immediately opened with the Association, and were facilitated by the Health Committees of the National Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and, of course, the Minister of Labour and Employment.
He said despite the payment of the Hazard Allowance and the Group Life Insurance, the provision of PPE as well as addressing other issues raised by the resident doctors, they still opted to proceed on strike.
“This is happening at a time the nation is battling a pandemic of immense proportions. This inexplicable strike is a dangerous setback for the nation’s efforts at tackling the pandemic,” he said.
Apart from the provision of PPEs and other equipment, Lai Mohammed said the Federal Government has expanded the testing laboratories from two to 38, trained over 13,000 health workers in Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC), developed policy and protocols for testing returning Nigerians, and has developed policies and protocols for integration of primary healthcare into national response,
He said the government has also developed stronger and sustainable policy for community engagement and risk Communication, and has Increased the isolation centre bed space from 3,000 to more than 5,000 nationwide.
In his comment, Labour Minister Chris Ngige said the government is responsive to the demands of the doctors and appealed to them to down tools and return to their duty post.
The Health Minister, Ehanire also said the government sees the health workers as critical elements of society and will continue to address all issues of their welfare and working environment.