Resident Doctors Explain Reasons For Ultimatum

Nigerian DoctorsThe President of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD), Muhammed Askira, says the ultimatum given to the Federal Government by the association is due to government’s delay in meeting the demands of the resident doctors.

The doctors had given a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to address their issues or face a nationwide strike.

‘Remuneration Injustice’

Dr. Askira was the guest of Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday and he explained that the issues were mainly about their Residency Training Programme and what he called ‘Remuneration Injustice’.

Mr Askira explained that over the years, the Residency Training Programme had not been provided with a template or guiding policy that was uniformly applied in all the training institutions.

“There is no uniform template for employment, there are no enough spaces for intake of resident doctors and also the National Postgraduate College that is supposed to be coordinating the activities and accreditation of the training institutions is not adequately funded,” he said.

The implication, according to him, is that training institutions and resident doctors have had to scramble for funds to sponsor resident doctors for update courses.

“If you look at it, the residency training programme, as the only postgraduate medical training programme in Nigeria for producing medical specialists, not funded is not acceptable,” he added.

He further disclosed that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund), which was set aside by previous governments, had not been covering the medical profession.

He appealed to the present administration to come to the aid of the NARD.

Dr. Askira cited the salary challenges being faced by their members working for state governments as another issue the association wants addressed.

He mentioned Osun, Oyo, Imo and Abia as states where their members have spent between three to eight months without their salaries.

Referring to Osun State as the worst, he wondered why the state government would not heed the cries of the doctors who had been considerate enough not to down tools during a period when all workers in the state did.

“When the bailout came, the government settled the backlog of the salaries of all workers and when they found out they could not continue paying the salaries, what is the normal thing to do? You call everybody to have an understanding.

“The government saw reasons to call only the other workers and not the resident doctors in LAUTECH and with the other workers they now agreed to a percentage of salaries, just for the resident doctors to wake up in July and find 46% of their salaries (unpaid).”

Before the Ultimatum

Asked if there had been efforts to resolve the issues with government before the issuance of an ultimatum, Dr Askira said that the association was left with no option, as every attempt to bring the Federal Government to the negotiation table failed.

“Since I assumed office on September 15 last year till today, as I am talking to you, there is no single working day that I am not in Abuja. I am primarily employed in Maiduguri, doing a posting in Kano but I am always in Abuja.

“Sometimes I go into some of the offices and they would not even allow me in and I would sit down and wait for them. Simply because of one fact, we want to see that constructive engagement takes precedence to dispute but at times you have no choice.

“This ultimatum is supposed to have even come since October last year but our members showed restraint, maturity because when we heard the President of the country saying impatience is not a virtue, we say patience is a virtue, lets be patient.

“There was even a circular from the same ministry saying that some of these things would be implemented by January 2016 and we waited till January.

“We delayed, constructively engaging them until now when we found out that unfortunately maybe these people are just like the old ones who understand only ultimatum and strike,” he said.

On Thursday, President Muhammadu  Buhari urged the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve its threatened strike and give the Federal Government more time to address the  doctor’s grievances.

President Buhari made the appeal at a meeting with the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja.

He gave the doctors an assurance that no agreements duly entered into by the Federal Government would be dishonoured by his administration.

 

Health Officials Commence Appraisal Of Residency Training Programme

 Residency Training ProgrammeThe Federal Government has announced plans to fashion out a residency training programme that would meet the ideals of the system and contribute effectively to the country’s health sector.

The Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, announced the plan at a meeting with health professionals in Abuja.

The meeting was convened to critically appraise the Residency Training Programme in the country and make recommendations to improve it.

Even though the suspension initially imposed by the Federal Government has been lifted, Government said that there was a great need to appraise the programme to tackle some of the challenges observed in the programme.

Health management officials, therefore, gathered to help government come up with key recommendations on the issue.

One of the participants from the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shuaib Oyedokun, expressed belief that the appraisal would help greatly in addressing pressing challenges facing the residency training programme.

Patricia Osemwenkha from the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Benin City, also expressed optimism that the resident doctors would welcome the effort to improve the training programme.

Nigeria’s health sector has witnessed a lot developments in recent weeks, from the prolonged strike by medical doctors, to the suspension of the residency training programme in the country.

However, some of those at the meeting said that the appraisal should also extend to other arms of the health sector, to ensure the needed transformation of the country’s health sector.

 


 

Resident Doctors’ Suspension Reminiscent Of Draconian Military Laws- Tope Ojo

Resident doctorsThe Lagos State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Tope Ojo, has condemned the suspension of resident doctors by the Federal Government, describing it as laws seen only during the “draconian military era” which “gives sad nostalgia”.

He also accused the Federal Government of “neglecting  the key challenges that should be addressed”.

He berated the Federal Government for accusing the resident doctors of performing below average, and reiterated the call for the restructuring of the residency programme to ensure the production of the highest level of medical specialists. This, he added, is part of the 24 demand made by the NMA to the Federal Government.

He said the decision was coming at a wrong time because “there is a high level of inadequacy” in the sector, which had forced some Nigerians to go abroad for treatment, adding that “employment into the residency programme is haphazard. When you pass your primaries, they will be looking for space all around” to accommodate you.

“If you have a residency board, this will be holistically looked at and you will have a placement arrangement that will be handled by this board,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of the resident doctors in the medical sector saying “the residents form the bulk”. “You can have a board where you have four consultants and about 20 residents at different level of training. They participate profusely, deeply and seriously in the training of medical students; which means that there will be no medical training that will go on,” Dr Ojo emphasised.

He also added that the “post graduate resident training has to do with the mid level training of the middle level manpower in the health sector.

“They are people going through a minimum period of six years in different fields,” he maintained.

Dr Ojo also stated that apart from resident doctors conducting over 50 per cent of the tutorials in the medical schools, their contributions in hospitals is vital to the survival of the health sector

He said if the suspension was not withdrawn, “major surgical operations are shut” because “the consultants don’t perform operations alone”.

“The resident doctors prepare patients for the operation from the clinic,” he said, insisting that a neurosurgeon can’t perform an operation with the help of a medical officer.

Dr Ojo, however, called on Nigeria’s political class to patronise Nigerian health institutions and to desist from “picking policies that will shut down operations in the health sector”.

He also noted that the suspension was a calculated attempt by the Federal Government to break the ranks of the NMA, but  he assured that the association “remains stronger”. “Our minimum condition to resume negotiation is for government to reverse this unpalatable decision,” he said.

FG Justifies Sack Of Resident Doctors

Meanwhile the Federal Government in a statement by the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, justified the suspension of the Residency Training Programme in all federal hospitals, “as part of efforts to reposition the public health sector”.

Professor Chuwku also said that “the quality of training has also progressively declined over the last decade despite recent efforts by the Jonathan Administration to revamp it”.

The Minister also added that the Residency Training Programme in all hospital in recent times had been beset by numerous challenges, including poor performance and unsatisfactory conduct of the resident doctors.

“The terms of admission to the Residency Training Programmes stipulate that either party (employer or employee) may terminate the relationship by giving one month notice or one month salary in lieu of notice.

“Accordingly, all affected doctors will receive one month salary in lieu of one month notice. One of the reasons for employer-initiated determination of the appointment, according to terms of the probationary residency appointment, is unsatisfactory performance by the resident doctor,” he said.

The Minister, however, stressed that “only resident doctors under the employ of the Federal Government are affected. Resident doctors employed by state governments in their hospitals and by private hospitals are not affected”.