Why health workers may prolong strike beyond Wednesday

Doctors

• Doctors reject new salary structure
The planned suspension of industrial action embarked upon by the health and medical workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), expected to be announced on Wednesday, may be under a fresh threat.

The Guardian gathered in Abuja at the weekend that the non-signature of the term of settlement by the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, is sending wrong signal to the five unions.

There are fears now that respective National Executive Councils of the unions may vote against suspending the strike until the ministers sign the document.

But the Chairman of JOHESU, Josiah Biobelemoye, ruled out such a scenario saying, “there are five unions that make up JOHESU. It takes only three unions to push a resolution through. I think government has demonstrated the goodwill that is needed to ensure implementation of the agreement.”

Thought the meeting was not attended by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, he signed the terms of agreement before jetting out of town on Saturday. The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof Stephen Ocheni, who chaired the meeting, signed the terms of agreement.

But the unions were adamant that the ministry being the line-ministry that would implement the terms of agreement, it is incumbent on the minister to sign the agreement and to demonstrate Federal Government commitment towards the full implementation of the agreement.

The feelings amongst the five unions is that there is nothing to report to the NEC meetings as long as the minister of health fails to sign the negotiated terms.

With the furore generated so far, it is expected that the minister of health may sign the agreement today if he finds all the terms implementable by his ministry.

According to the terms of agreement reached, it was agreed that the Federal Ministry of Health will meet with the various regulatory bodies within two weeks with a view to work out the modalities for the central placement of other professionals.

A circular for the implementation of the appointment of nurses interns is scheduled to be released within one week.

On the upward adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), the meeting agreed that Federal Government be given five weeks within which to release implementation circular on the subject matter.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has rejected the new salary scale for health workers.

The President of NMA, Dr. Mike Ogirima and Secretary General, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, said in Abuja yesterday that while the NMA is not opposed to salary increment of professionals in the health sector, such must be done without jeopardizing the existing system.

The body said: “The NMA is not opposed to any salary review, adjustment or increase for JOHESU members or any other worker for that matter provided that the same rate applied to CONHESS is applied to CONMESS to sustain the principle of relativity agreement as signed between the Federal Government and NMA on January 2, 2014. Consequently, the NMA is again advising JOHESU to seek for salary review/ increase/ adjustment. We are resolute on this advice.”

It further noted that the cost implication for adjusting CONHESS and applying the relativity rates to CONMESS after adjusting CONHESS is estimated to be N21.7 billion and N8.7 billion and N13billion respectively.

On administrative autonomy, NMA said Staff in a department irrespective of the profession should obtain clearance from the primary department before the head of the professional department approves.

It added that this is likely going to help in reducing the ‘sudden disappearance from duty post syndrome’ being experienced in many core clinical departments.

The NMA also flayed calls for other professionals to attain ‘consultant cadre’ in a hospital setting.

It submitted that none of the proposed consultants is useful in patient care as physicians may not need their services.

It added that there indeed consultants in various medical specialties that oversee the work of the allied health workers.

JOHESU is expected to partner with the government to provide the list of the institutions that have either not started or have not paid the arrears within one week.

It was noted that the government has started payment of promotion arrears to beneficiaries in various institutions.

The Federal Government agreed to make employment in areas of critical manpower shortage.

On the enhanced entry point for radiographers and medical laboratory scientists, it was resolved that the matter be treated holistically to cater for all the cadres within JOHESU membership.

A five-man committee including two members of JOHESU shall be set up to look into the specialist allowance including the allegation of illegal virement of money meant for payment of the allowance.

In view of the importance of Boards of Management in the proper running of Federal Health Institutions, it was agreed that boards of federal health institutions should be constituted without further delay.

It was agreed that relevant stakeholders should be involved in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) process and that there should be transparency among the stakeholders.



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