NARD strike: FG faithful to agreement with Doctors – Ngige

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige says  the Federal Government has substantially met the demands of the National Association of Resident Doctors(NARD) and faulted the rejection of the Memorandum of Action signed Wednesday March 31, 2021 by the President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi.  

 The Minister who spoke to reporters Saturday,  explained that some of the demands by NARD were made in error as some of the issues were already conciliated and implemented hundred percent. He however  stated the outstanding issues which came up at the last conciliation, were timelined along a month life span of implementation( some a week, other two and three weeks) revealing  that “ they are still work in progress .” 

But some of the issues such as  the abolition of the  ‘Bench fees’ by Residents and their Health Institutions payable to sister Hospitals were immediately abolished on the negating table. 

 “NARD made some of the demands in ignorance. They didn’t have the full picture . May be they wished for a strike or their president  pushed them into strike so that his name  will go into the annals of NARD as one of the though presidents that has taken them on strike. That’s wrong 

 Senator Ngige faulted the unilateral repudiation of the Memorandum of Action by NARD’s President, describing it as unknown in labour negotiation.  

“He didn’t participate in most of the discussions last Wednesday because he fell ill not quite after the meeting started and had to excuse himself . He handed over to his deputy, the secretary General and other officers of the association, who fully participated . We spent seven hours and by the time we put our signatures to the papers , it was eight hours. 

 “ Disowning the MOA duly negotiated is unknown to labour  . The two parties to the negotiation signed the MOA.  Four officers from government and three from NARD signed the document  and the President who was not at the meeting but fully represented by deputies went to NARD’s NEC and disowned the paper because they were signed by his deputy and secretary general . There is what is called transmission of power . He as the President fell sick and his deputies continued with the meeting . That’s allowed. 

 Even at that, The Minister  averred that ab initio, it was wrong for NARD to impose a fait accompli on the Federal Government while negotiation was ongoing. 

“ When a trade dispute has been apprehended , no party imposes on the other, a fait accompli. We signed a memorandum that says NARD will go back to its members to educate them on what has been agreed, the timelines placed on them, with a view not to disturb the industrial milieu in the health sector. And we agreed to reconvene after four weeks .

 He said the reason was to allow enough time to implement the issues in the timeline, some of which would take three weeks, before reconvening . He further expressed disappointment  that NARD made a detour and mobilized members into action on the Eastertide, when  Christians are observing  the holiest week in their universal  calendar.

 He dismissed as untrue, allegation that doctors  in the public health institutions across the country, were not insured and  said the Federal Government  spent 13.3 billion naira in 2020, on Group Life Insurance not just for doctors and health workers alone but also for all workers in the federal civil and public service.

“ The Federal Government of Nigeria in March last year, spent N13.3 billion on Group life Insurance for all workers comprising all federal civil servants as well as  public servants  in some parastatals that cannot afford  Group Life Insurance for their staff members. 

He stated that the reason for the composite exercise was to stop a situation where Ministries and agencies of government worked in silos in payment of death benefits to workers and with lapses in some cases.  

“ This N9.3b was paid to thirteen insurance companies and brokerage firms to administer . And this is not the first time that NARD and teaching hospitals have been told to send in names and make claims for members  who have lost their lives. 

“It is an insurance that runs for one year, from April 10, 2020 to April 9, 2021) and even at that,  the new payment is now being processed , so that it becomes a continuous thing.

The Minister added that NARD was again reminded  of the development while signing a Memorandum of Action on Wednesday, March 31, 2012 to  put up a claims through the Ministry of Health;  to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation as it was the only basis for payment of premium to the beneficiaries.   

“ If you have a premium and you don’t make a claim, nobody will pay you. Make your claim, get it in through the Ministry of Health and from there to the Office of the Head of Service. It gets to the Insurance companies and payment will be made. 

He continued that the procedure was for all health workers,  civil servants and public servants in the Federal Government employ, noting that  Federal Government fast-tracked the insurance cover last year in anticipation of casualties attendant upon Covid-19 outbreak .  

“ With Covid-19 , we envisaged that health workers  would need this more than any other person, so the Federal Government rushed the bill. There is a group life insurance in situ now for every health worker , including the doctors and therefore dishonest for anyone to make a claim to the contrary.

“ We also have additional insurance from the PTF especially for those who work inside the Covid-19 isolation centres, for them to get something additional.

“ Moreover, there is an insurance for compensation for injuries , diseases and even death in the course of work  called Employee Compensation .  There is an Act of the Federal Government the Employee Compensation Act being operated by the Nigeria Social Insurance Fund. Once you are insured under it , you make your claim. 

 The Minister hence drew the attention of  unions to the fact that unionization for the welfare of workers  should not be only for the purpose of strike, rather, going the extra miles to  exploit all opportunities provided by government for the welfare of the workforce. 

“ So NARD should make claims for the seventeen of their members it confirmed  dead as result of covid-19. They have the right to make a claim on behalf of their members . The insurance company only need to verify  the claims and pay

 “ They can similarly make claim under the Employee Compensation Act for any of their members  who has suffered injury in the course of his or her work or hazard in the course of work.

 “ The NSITF will verify and if such a person exists; that has had injury, hazard or diseased condition in the course of work, and will pay, and  even also to the employer who engaged the victim for loss of his manpower. That is what the Act says.

 Speaking on the  Medical Residency Programme which is the major reason for fresh action by NARD, the Minister declared that the progrramme  has been working hitch-free  since it came up in 2019, saying that the House of Representatives had to do a supplementary appropriation to accommodate it in 2020 Covid-19 budget and the funds, fully released  by the Federal Ministry of Finance. 

He therefore `urged  doctors to respect the Hippocratic oath which makes  the wellbeing of patients cardinal . 

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