The federal government says it will ensure improved working conditions for doctors and other health workers across the country.
Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, stated this at a media briefing on Thursday while speaking on the ongoing strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
NARD had declared an indefinite strike, which commenced on Monday, over “irregular payment of salaries”, among other issues.
The association had alleged that the federal government is yet to fulfill the demands contained in the agreement made with the doctors.
Ehanire noted that some of the demands made by the doctors involve states, which the federal government may not be able to do much about in terms of ensuring compliance.
He, however, promised that the federal government will improve on efforts to ensure better welfare for doctors.
“In their notice of July 25, 2021, they mentioned states like Imo, Kaduna, Delta and Lagos. The federal government cannot force these states to do anything,” Ehanire said.
“For the issues surrounding the federal government, not all of these issues are for the ministry of health. The payment lies within the powers of the accountant-general of the federation. We are also working with other agencies to sort out some of these issues.
“I believe they will call a meeting and reassess some of the issues they tabled. We already have people who have retired coming in to say they want to step in. This is not a good time to go on strike.”
Speaking on the emigration of doctors, the minister said the federal government is working on measures to tackle the situation.
“It is actually difficult to say we want to combat the brain drain of doctors. They see the salaries there as being expensive and most of them do not want to serve in rural areas,” he said.
“In Nigeria, we are not the only ones suffering from it. Some other developing countries also suffer it too; because they studied in English, they easily get into those countries.
“We are also working to make sure that working conditions in Nigeria are favourable. That is why we are also working on the issues of hazard allowances.
“I understand that states are now issuing bonding. So, once they are trained, they cannot leave the states. We hope the young doctors understand fully.”
Also speaking, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, permanent secretary in the ministry of health, said the present administration is always ready to meet the demands of labour unions or associations in the health sector.
“This is why whenever any union or association in the health sector complains about their welfare or any issue, it always receives the prompt attention of Mr. President,” he said.
“It is a fact that the government signed a Memorandum of Action (MoA) on April, 10, 2021 with the NARD on some of the issues. I am pleased to inform you that government, in collaboration with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) is constantly evaluating the progress made so far on issues concerning their members.
“It is on record that none of the items on the Memorandum of Action have been left unattended by the government. As you are aware, processes and procedures govern the conduct of government business.”