THE federal government has threatened to sack medical doctors in its payroll who fail to appear at their duty posts on Wednesday. To this end, the government has directed all Chief Medical Directors, CMDs, of its hospitals to open a record-keeping register between 7am and 12 noon each day, beginning from Wednesday, insisting that those who fail to show up for work would be identified and appropriately dealt with.

The government’s threat which came through the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, was a fallout of a meeting convened at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, to negotiate with the striking doctors under the aegis of National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, with a view to resolving the issues that led to declaration of strike, Monday by the latter.

The negotiation meeting, which started at about 1 pm on Tuesday and lasted several hours ended in deadlock as members of the association led, by its National President, Dr Aliyu Socumba, angrily stormed out of the meeting. He threatened that the doctors would only suspend the ongoing action within 24 hours if the government bring something tangible on the table.

We are not coming back, we told them if something tangible is brought to the table, we can suspend the action within 24 hours but for now, the strike continues,” he said. He spoke further: “I am not coming back, others may come back. The outcome is that all our discussion and demands have not materialised… to a positive outcome and we have assured the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment that once we are able to get a tangible outcome, a notice of the meeting shall be conveyed within 24 hours to review the industrial action.”

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire who was probably angry by the decision of the NARD leadership to storm out of the meeting said a directive would be issued to medical directors of all the hospitals to open a register to collect records of all who report to work and those who did not. While briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting he said the government has an obligation to protect the lives of Nigerians who are suffering from one illness or the other.

He pointed out that there would be a need for ad-hoc arrangements to solve the need at hand. According to Ehanire, all the pleas to the doctors to see reasons with government, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic fell on deaf ears. He said: “Health is very important and a critical area at that, and under this circumstance, the health workforce is essential persons. We have pleaded with them over their demands so that the issues can be settled amicably.

A number of them (their demands) do have merits, but the government has also tried to meet their demands. “Sometimes, under pressure the way the system is; we have an obligation as a ministry to be ready to protect the lives of Nigerians, we are not going to allow our hospitals to empty.

The government has an obligation to support the needs to safeguard the health of the citizens. The resident doctors have told us that they are not going to return to work anytime soon until certain conditions are met and we are not sure that they would not continue expanding the goal post every time we try to reach a solution.

Therefore, certain steps need to be taken to protect the citizens, particularly those who are in hospitals. This evening the ministry of health will issue a directive to all medical directors and Chief Medical Directors of all federal hospitals across the country to open up a register tomorrow morning by 7 a.m and record all those who come to work and all those who do not come to work. Further action would follow that and those who come to work, it will be understood they are still in service and when the register closes at 12 noon we will be able to know who comes to work or not.”

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