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Enugu State in face off with doctors amid fight against COVID-19

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Enugu State in face off with doctors amid fight against COVID-19

While the nation, and the world at large, are taking steps, and doing everything possible to end the covid-19 pandemic, the Enugu State government is at loggerheads with the professionals in the forefront of the fight.

The face-off is with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) of the Enugu State University of Technology Teaching Hospital, which has led to a warning strike by the doctors.

The ESUT-TH branch of NARD had been in a running battle with the state government over proper remuneration and gross disparity in the entry point for medical doctors into the service of the teaching hospital.

According to the doctors, they have endured the payment of a disproportionate fraction of the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS), 2009, which was effected in 2014 till date. They, however, are agitating that they be upgraded to the 2019 version of the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale that has been effected in all federally owned tertiary medical institutions and some state owned ones in the country.

The resident doctors, in several correspondences with the state government, through the state branch, the Southeast zone and the national bodies of NARD, appealed that their requests be looked into and approved by government.

The state branch and Southeast zone of the association also threatened different stages of industrial unrest if their agitations are not addressed.

According to the correspondences between the doctors, the management of ESUT-TH, and the state government sighted By Ripples Nigeria, the state government gave the doctors a ray of hope, when the state acceded to their requests, agreeing to the payment of the CONMESS 2019 and review of the entry point for medical doctors as is obtainable in other tertiary medical institutions in the country.

This agreement, backed by a letter from the state government to become effective on the 1st of April 2020, was, however, reneged upon by the state government, putting in jeopardy the state’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

This led the doctors to resume their earlier suspended strike action to further press home their demands.

The national body of NARD, in a letter to the governor of the state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, noted that it had earlier intervened in September 2019, on behalf of the NARD ESUT-TH branch in its struggle to get what it deserves from the state government.

In the letter dated April 29, 2020, the NARD national headquarters wrote:

“ESUT-TH Parklane has more than ever before occupied a central position in Enugu State’s healthcare delivery as the pandemic of COVID-19 ravages with daily escalation of infected Nigerians. Members of the Nigerian Association of Resident
Doctors (NARD) in ESUT-TH play vital roles in the hospital and provide huge support and socio-economic benefits to the state government and the good people of Enugu state.

“We have observed that members of NARD ESUT-TH Parklane are not treated fairly, as they are from time to time faced with numerous problems, which if left unattended to will continue to generate unwarranted stress on them, their families psychologically, financially and otherwise. We therefore frown at the perpetual remuneration injustices and political pressure mounted on our members who have been starved even as they risk it all to care for the good people of Enugu state.

“Key problems include, but not limited to:
a. Perpetual poor salary status: Doctors of ARD ESUT-TH Parklane stand out as one of the least paid in Nigeria, therefore the high turnover of this high end professionals in Enugu state.

‘They are placed a grade level below their counterparts in other tertiary hospitals. They are being paid a fraction of the old Consolidated Medical salary Scale (CONMESS) of 2009 which has been reviewed three times for other doctors as of State Tertiary Health Institutions in Nigeria, such as Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Anambra State, Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Kano State University Teaching Hospital, Barau Dikko teaching hospital Kaduna, Borno State University Teaching Hospital, etc, have since adjusted the salary scale to 100% CONMESS, with appropriate grade level placement, with their counterparts in Federal Tertiary Health Institutions. But this remuneration injustice contunues to be met on members of ARD ESUT-TH Parklane.

Read also: Edo explains N1bn expenditure on COVID-19

“b. Despite serial promises and more recently, a written approval with Ref No GHS/57/S.2/III/270 for 100% CONMESS and rejigging of the entry levels for members of ARD ESUT-TH Parklane, the implementation of same approval seems to have been reneged upon.

“c. As a fall out of this, there is an ongoing industrial disharmony caused essentially by the non-implementation of the approval of Corrected CONMESS 100% given to members of ARD ESUT-TH Parklane.

“d. We have equally observed the lack of commitment on the part of the Management of ESUT-TH in the current impasse as the management is taking provocative rather than restorative steps.”

The NARD national secretariat, in the letter jointly signed by its President and Secretary General, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba and Dr. Bliqis Muhammad respectively, demanded the following:

“That the Enugu State government, as a matter of urgency, fully implement the written approval of 100% CONMESS and rejigging of the grade levels and upward review the COVID-19 hazard and risk allowance as directed by the federation for members of ARD ESUT-TH Parklane, as this is the current situation in all Federal Tertiary Health Institutions and most State Tertiary Health Institutions in the country.

“That NARD is averse to any act of injustice and intimidation of her members, and will not hesitate to take the extreme measures to ensure that the rights and privileges of all her members are protected.

“That NARD alongside NARD South-East Caucus and all her members hereby implore the Enugu State Government to keep to the terms of the written approval and promise made to members of ARD ESUT-TH Parklane immediately to avoid a wider form of industrial disharmony”.

The letter also threatened to rally all NARD members in the Southeast if the state government failed to accede to its demands.

“We have directed all the resident doctors in the South-East to mobilize for solidarity action if the Enugu State government allows the current issues to linger beyond this week.

“NARD and her members remain committed towards delivery of quality health care services to the good people of Enugu State and Nigeria”, the association said.

Despite perceived Enugu State Government in action, the ESUT-TH branch of NARD, in response to the growing cases of COVID-19 in the state, on Monday, 4th May called off the strike they embarked on.

It is, however, left to be seen if the state government would reciprocate the good gesture of the doctors.

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