The Federal Government has reassured Medical Doctors and other healthcare workers of its commitment to their wellbeing and the implementation of agreements reached with them.
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, gave the assurance when he received in audience, the executives of the Nigerian Association of Medical Doctors (NMA), in Abuja.
Ngige maintained that the Federal Government was neither threatened with strike action by NMA nor prodded into action in any form before it embarked on the process of providing special incentives for healthcare workers in the country.
He reassured NMA that government would not renege on its agreement and would cooperate with the body in all ramifications, urging them to shelve any misgivings on government’s good intentions.
The Minister emphasised that government was totally focused on serving the nation, and urged NMA to always see negotiation as the ultimate resolution to industrial misunderstanding and dispute.
He noted that the Federal Government had taken giant strides in the healthcare sector, including the funding and implementation of the Health Act 2013.
The Federal Government, he said, had set up molecular laboratories in the states, provided personal protective equipment and money to some states as part of efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and provide health security for the citizenry.
“Even with dwindling resources, the Federal Government tries in its budgeting to meet up with health funding. It is refurbishing Teaching Hospitals, and putting up molecular laboratories in the states. The Federal Government has also done the Residency Doctors Act and funding it,” he said.
The Minister maintained that the Federal Government had been doing its best in implementing its agreement with healthcare workers, even in the face of declining resources, and the inclusion of more persons who were not originally considered in the budgetary allocation for hazard allowances.
Ngige therefore urged the NMA to task the states on living up to its responsibility in protecting their people healthwise and partnering with the Federal Government in providing healthcare for all the citizens.
He assured that payment of healthcare workers in Health Centres in the universities would be reconsidered once it has been established that they did not close down the Centres. “The Federal Ministry of Health will ascertain if they are back to work, and will then provide the statistics on how long they have worked.”
On moving the retirement age from 60 to 65 years for all medical doctors, and 60 to 70 years for the special grade, as NMA requested, Ngige explained that it would require the attention of a government panel, adding that those would be looked into post COVID-19.
He stated that soon, government would do a holistic review of the welfare of healthcare workers, while a meeting would also be held to discuss the payment of hazard allowance for the second batch of three months
Earlier, the President, Nigerian Medical Association, Prof (Dr) Innocent A. O. Ujah, commended the Federal Government on the payment of the COVID-19 hazard allowance to healthcare workers, and the Minister on the part he played in making it a success.
He however requested for the inclusion of some categories of healthcare workers who had been omitted in the payment of hazard allowance.
Ujah also requested the implementation of several agreements reached with the Federal Government, which include the need for an increase in the retirement age for consultants of Special Grade 1 and other doctors to 70 years and 60 years respectively; Residency Training Act and Funding, among others.