BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
The ongoing strike by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), would have been avoided if
the federal government had taken seriously the 60-day ultimatum.
NARD, had on January given the federal government until 31st of March to meet its demands which include: immediate payment of all salary arrears including March salaries for its members in all Federal (GIFMIS platform) and State Tertiary Health Institutions across the country; 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 among others.
NARD president, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, who spoke to me briefly, says they have lost some of their members to COVID-19.
He worries that till now, their families have not been paid their insurance benefits.
“For over five years that the government claimed they have given us insurance, none of them have been paid their insurance benefits. Their families left behind are left to suffer, neglected by government. In countries like the UK, USA and Canada, health workers get insurance benefits.
“We are exposed to infectious diseases on a daily basis and we go home to infect our families with the disease and we are paid a hazard allowance of five thou- sand naira monthly, while the Senate and House of Reps mem- bers are paid N1.2million for hardship allowance. Where does the priority of the country lie?”
I also had a chat with the immediate past president of NARD, FCT chapter, Dr Roland Aigbovo, who revealed that if the government truly wants to end the incessant strike in the health sector, it needs to be sincere in its dealings and invest in the health sector.
Needless to say, it is these challenges that have been identified as the factors promoting brain drain in the health sec- tor, as many of the professionals are compelled to seek greener pastures such as Saudi Arabia, among others due to what they described as poor welfare, remuneration and infrastructure.
Honestly, can you blame them? Okhuaihesuyi says that even with the level of brain drain in the sector, government is not concerned about the few remaining in the country and that there is an embargo on employment in most of the teaching hospitals.
He called for the immediate implementation of September 2017 Memorandum of Terms of Settlement (MOTOS) between
NARD and the federal government, in order to bring lasting peace to the health sector.