Doctors demands are impossible – Osun government

Yinka Salaam, Osogbo

The Government of Osun in South West Nigeria says it is impossible for government to meet the demand of the state striking medical doctors in the face of the present economic reality.

At a press conference addressed by the Chairman, Osun Special Committee on Health, Dr. Simeon Afolayan said “it remains unbelievable that less than a hundred resident doctors would insist that they would not be bound by the modulated payment regime agreed to by over 39,000 other workers of the state.

“The decision of the state to live within its means in the light of the shortfall in revenue was taken by all stakeholders including all the representatives of labour unions and government.”

Afolayan, who is also a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and the Hospital Management Board maintained that contrary to the doctors’ claim, they were duly represented on the committee that sits on the revenues accrued to the state and decides on what goes into payment of salaries as well as the running cost of government.

He said if the entire workforce of about 40,000 agreed to a pact, such a tough decision cannot be abrogated by a group whose member is less than 100.

“There is no way we could back down on this, because, in the first instance, other professionals had accepted the agreement reached with labour.

“Doctors were eager to join the general strike called by NLC even though they claim they are not affiliated to NLC but they refused to resume work when the strike was called off. When it is convenient for doctors, they hearken to the voice of labour unions only to claim decisions taken by the same union is not bidding on them.”

The Chairman, Special Committee on Health said the doctors have remained recalcitrant despite all entreaties by leading lights of the medical profession.

He announced that government has commenced the deployment of doctors from the Ministry of Health, Bowen University, the police, army and others to mitigate the effect of the emergency situation created by the strike.

While calling on well-meaning Nigerians to help prevail on the doctors on their demands, Afolayan remarked that doctors have embarked on varying industrial actions for about 11 months; out of which government had paid for six months of no work.

He enjoined the striking workers not to force government to invoke the civil service regulation that stipulates that workers who absent themselves from work beyond certain limit are deemed to have resigned their appointments, adding that the rule has taken effect, but the government was considerate enough by giving fresh opportunity to those who still want to render services.

Killer Tax

Reacting to government’s position, the President of Association of Resident Doctors LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo Dr Owolabi Adeyinka, has said the grievance is beyond salary issues.

He stated that, in addition to salary issue, other areas of concern involve what he calls ‘killer tax’ imposed on doctors.

Dr Owolabi Adeyinka insisted the medical doctors could not be bound by government’s agreement with the labour union, saying doctors are essential service providers and are not part of labour unions.

Adeyinka however said the doctors are not averse to negotiation that will allow for a comprehensive negotiation which is not tailored by any previous agreement.

“Government has never called us to a formal discussion. All discussions that had taken place are informal. We are however optimistic of a positive reconciliation if government agrees to negotiate with us.”

Voice of Nigeria reports that the Osun State Government had three weeks ago placed advertorials in some national dailies, calling on eligible medical doctors to apply for jobs into its hospitals.