The Ekiti State government has called on doctors under the aegis of National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) to suspend its industrial action in the interest of the people.
The government pledged its readiness to meet all the demands of the doctors instalmentally, insisting that these would be done in such a way that other sectors won’t be affected.
The doctors had on June 30 withdrawn their services, after exhausting 28 days ultimatum issued to the government, in protest against alleged wage disparity, unpaid backlog of allowances, among other matters.
In a statement in Ado Ekiti on Thursday by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Muyiwa Olumilua, the government denied the allegation raised by doctors that Ekiti 19 general and three specialist hospitals as well as over primary health centres are currently experiencing acute shortage of health professionals.
Olumilua said the state has over 300 doctors on its payroll, contrary to the frightening situation painted by the striking doctors.
“There are over 300 doctors in the service of Ekiti State Government and more than 700 doctors cumulatively in the state.
“Once again, Government appeals to the striking doctors under the aegis of NAGGMDP to reconsider their position and return to their duty posts immediately. Continuing with this ill-timed strike action will only put the lives of Ekiti residents at more risk during this COVID-19.
“It is widely acknowledged that most developing nations and sub- nationals are experiencing the shortage of doctors in the health sector, including Ekiti State. It is however important to clarify that there are adequate doctors in both public and private sectors in Ekiti State to meet the healthcare needs of its residents.
“It is unfortunate that despite the numerous efforts of the State Government to support the Health Sector, especially during this pandemic and its attendant economic effects, the members of this Association have insisted on the strike action.”
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Tracing the efforts made by government to avert the disharmony, Olumilua added: “NAGGMDP leadership and that of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) were invited to more than seven meetings between June 11 and July 8, 2020 for constructive engagement. Government empathised with the association but explained that the State could not meet all their demands due to the global pandemic and dwindling monthly federal allocation and low IGR.
“While most of the association’s demands were not peculiar to them alone, they emphasised the implementation of the “skipping” in their salary scale; that means Medical Officers will commence their career in the civil service on GL 13 instead of the current GL 12 while Consultants will be appointed on GL 16 instead of the current GL 15, as approved by the National Council on Establishments (NCE)”.
“Formal and informal steps have been taken to appeal to the striking doctors, but the doctors have remained adamant. It is necessary to note that all the other unions in the Health Sector who are similarly affected by some of the same requests, met with Government and after reviewing the state finances, were considerate and humane enough to call off their strike action and are now at their duty posts, providing lifesaving services to Ekiti people.
“The timing of this strike action – in the middle of a global public health crisis when the citizens need their services the most, borders on insensitivity. Government calls on all well-meaning Nigerians to appeal to the striking doctors not to allow themselves to be pawns in the hands of political detractors.”