The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over its planned industrial action.
This is according to a statement issued on Tuesday and signed by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, Lanre Lasisi.
The statement indicates that the speaker held a meeting with the association and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health at the National Assembly to resolve all pending issues.
At the end of the three-hour meeting, Gbajabiamila said the leadership of the House would not fold its arms while resident doctors embark on strike at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
The union had issued an ultimatum to embark on strike next week Monday following what it said was government’s inability to fulfil certain obligations as agreed in a memorandum of understanding.
Part of the issues in contention as narrated by the chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Tanko Sununu, were outstanding payments on hazard allowance, arbitrary disengagement of 23 doctors at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital.
Others include the non-provision of life insurance despite the death of some doctors from COVID-19, non-provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs), reduction of doctors’ salary by the Kaduna State Government, doctors’ residency training, among others.
The Speaker begged the union to “tarry a while as government was working assiduously to meet their entitlements, but noted that the House could not intervene in the issue of doctors in Kaduna State as it is not under its jurisdiction.”
Gbajabiamila said that if need be, the House would come up with a law that would not only back the payment of hazard allowance but would also define same for clarity.
“As a House, we’ll keep taking steps to avoid strikes. This meeting will give us the opportunity to holistically address the issues at stake.
“Let us agree on one thing: that at this time, we can’t afford to allow our doctors go on strike. Let us agree that their welfare is a priority,” he said.
According to him, the issues of hazard allowance was captured in the supplementary budget before the House.
While assuring the resident doctors of the Federal Government’s commitment in resolving the issues raised, the Speaker said: “I want you to understand that government is doing its best to meet your entitlement.”
Gbajabiamila also assured that the resident doctors’ training would be captured in the 2021 budget whether it is included in the ministry’s budget.
On his part, NERD President, Dr Sokomba Aliyu said he would get back to the national executive of the association and relate the Speaker’s intervention to them.
Although Aliyu did not give a direct commitment on the suspension of the planned strike, he however maintained that he would communicate their decision to the House.