By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has expressed surprise over the news that members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) are embarking on a nationwide strike despite committed efforts to meet their demands.
Gbajabiamila had last Tuesday personally held a meeting of about three hours with the leadership of the resident doctors and the executive arm led by the two ministers manning the Federal Ministry of Health where their demands were addressed to the satisfaction of all.
He had said at the meeting that the leadership of the House would not fold its arms while resident doctors embark on strike at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was held sequel to a strike notice issued by NARD, demanding that issues such as the outstanding payments of hazard allowance, arbitrary disengagement of 23 doctors at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital, non-provision of life insurance despite the death of some doctors from COVID-19, non-provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs), reduction of doctors’ salary by the Kaduna State Government, doctors’ residency training, among others, must be addressed.
In his intervention, the Speaker promised that the House would ensure that the hazard allowance was included in the revised 2020 Budget and this was done.
In keeping to his promise on residency funding, the Speaker raised the matter during consideration of the budget on Wednesday and the sum of N4 billion was approved by the House from the Service Wide Votes for the commencement of funding of residency programme as provided for by the Medical Residency Training Act.
The Senate concurred with that position on Thursday when it passed its version of the budget.
The issue of a template for implementation was also raised by the doctors, and the Speaker directed that an emergency meeting with the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission be held on Monday, June 15.
At the meeting, which held at the National Assembly, the Commission promised to produce the template in the next 48 hours. The leadership of NARD was also at the meeting.
At last week’s meeting, Gbajabiamila also hinted that if need be, the House would come up with a law that would not only back the payment of hazard allowance but would also define same for clarity.
With all the positive steps taken in a bid to fulfil all promises, the Speaker had appealed to NARD to tarry a while as the government works assiduously to meet their entitlements since the revised 2020 budget was passed only last week and all processes for presidential assent and implementation are yet to kick-off in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies including health.
He also assured that the resident doctors’ training would be captured in the 2021 budget whether or not it is included by the Executive in the ministry’s budget.
On the issue of PPEs, it was revealed at the meeting that all Federal Government medical facilities were provided with that, while the sack of 23 doctors was also resolved.
However, Gbajabiamila said he could not believe that despite the steps taken by the National Assembly to intervene in the matter, the resident doctors could still embark on the strike.
Consequently, the Speaker appealed to them to call off the strike while all the resolutions reached at last week’s meeting are implemented one after the other.
He also called on them to consider the plight of average Nigerians as they consider shifting their position.