According to a report by The PUNCH, the National Association of Resident Doctors in Lagos State has criticised the Lagos State Government for its hastiness in the implementation of a Federal Government directive to stop the enrolment of interns, house officers and National Youth Service Corps members on the National Health Insurance Scheme, among others.
The association, in a communiqué on Saturday, following a six-day meeting of its National Executive Council that ended on Saturday, declared an indefinite nationwide strike beginning on Monday (tomorrow).
The Lagos State Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, in a circular (Ref. No. CIR/HOS/’21/Col.1/052) on July 12, 2021, titled ‘Internship Programme in the Civil/Public Service,’ stated that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had authorised the removal of medical doctors on internship, housemanship and NYSC programmes in the state.
The document, a copy of which was made available to Sunday PUNCH, said, “As part of the resolutions reached at the 42nd National Council on Establishments Meeting, which was held in Lagos on Monday, 30th November – Friday, 4th December, 2020, the current status of the Internship Programmes/Housemanship/NYSC Doctors in the Public Service was reviewed and removed from the Schemes of Service as posts attracting Grade Levels in the Salary Structure as the programmes form part of the training in their respective professions.
“Accordingly, Mr Governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, has approved the removal of Grade Level for Internship Programmes/Housemanship/NYSC doctors in the State Public Service.
“Consequently, Accounting Officers are enjoined to note the contents of this circular and give it the deserved service-wide publicity.”
The circular was addressed to 30 categories of state officials, including the Deputy Governor, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Chief Judge, Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff, commissioners/special advisers.
The communiqué of the NARD NEC meeting made available to Sunday PUNCH by its National President, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, read in part, “The NEC noted with grievous concerns the circular from the Head of Service of the Federation removing House Officers from the scheme of service and the consequent implementation by the Lagos State Government. They also observed that some house officers are still being owed one to two months salaries.
“After critical appraisal of the performance of both federal and state governments on all the issues affecting the welfare of our members as observed above and the insincerity of government in implementing the memorandum of action after 113 days, the NEC unanimously resolved by vote to resume the total and indefinite strike action from 0800hrs Monday, 2nd August, 2021.”
The NARD President in Lagos, Dr Hassan Oluwafemi, in an interview with our correspondent, accused the state government of rushing to implement the directive to remove the lower level medical doctors from schemes of service, in spite of it being put on hold by the Federal Government.
Oluwafemi said, “The Federal Government has not implemented it yet because at the last meeting of the NMA with the Head of Service of the Federation, it was pointed out that in that memo, we have five to 10 per cent (enrolled on the National Health insurance Scheme) and it is going to destabilise the health sector.
“I guess that was the reason the Federal Government had to put it on hold. But surprisingly, Lagos State quickly jumped to the implementation of that and we feel it is not acceptable. This is something that even the Federal Government has not implemented. Why is it the one that will have a negative effect on doctors that it will be the first to implement?
“Commencing on Monday, the NARD is embarking on an indefinite strike. One of the issues that led to the strike is the house officers and NYSC doctors being removed from the schemes of service by the memo issued by the Federal Government. Other governors have not implemented it, but Lagos State rushed to implement it. If it succeeds in Lagos, definitely some other states will follow suit.”
The NARD president said one of the association’s demands was the withdrawal of the circular by the Lagos State Government.
“It is even more than the issue of salaries. It is all about protecting the interests of the vulnerable members of our profession. We cannot just watch as that happens. It is like destroying the history of the medical profession. It is one of the issues that were discussed, on which the (strike) decision was based,” Oluwafemi said.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Gboyega Akosile, could not be reached for comments on Saturday evening as calls to his number went unanswered.
However, a top government official in the state government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that due consultations needed to be made with the relevant officials before a position could be given.
“I will need to get in touch with people who are concerned, perhaps in the Ministry of Establishments and Training as well as the Ministry of Health, to be able to comment,” the government source said.