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NMA warned about imminent colapse of health sector

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) today warned about the imminent collapse of the health sector in the next few days, as its final ultimatum to the federal government has nearly expired with no progress being made.

The disturbing alarm comes just as the government finally seems to be making headway in its conflict with university lecturers who may return to work in a matter of days.

In the statement signed by the NMA President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, the doctors drew attention to the levity with which the Health Minister, Mr. Chukwu Onyebuchi, has handled the situation.

Some of the issues in context, they said, include the upgrade of hospital facilities and infrastructure; improvement in their work conditions; and the erroneous system in the adopted salary payment structure known as Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).

After a series postponements of their deadlines for meeting all the demands since July, on account of the intervention of some stakeholders, the doctors have finally elected that December 14, which is two days away, as the final deadline beyond which no other grace would be permissible.

This means a shutdown of the education sector could well be joined by a shutdown of the medical sector.

“For over five months now, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the umbrella body for all medical and dental practitioners in Nigeria, has recurrently engaged the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, on issues bordering on some health sector challenges, workplace conditions and the conditions of service of doctors”, the statement said.

It recounted that on September 2, the NMA issued a 2-day ultimatum to the government to address the issues the association had tabled. However, after the intervention of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr. Emeka Wogu, the NMA on September 22, decided to extend that ultimatum by four weeks.

That new deadline expired, and the association allowed an additional four weeks in order to enable the government to work on the issues.

The statement pointed out that even after that, twice granted further extensions after the government constituted a presidential committee and promised to speedily resolve the issues.

“Sadly, since the report of the Presidential Committee was submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, only the re-constitution and inauguration of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria has been achieved,” it said, stressing the government has failed to pay attention to any other issues since then.

“On account of the foregoing, it may be difficult to guarantee further extension of the grace period and consequently, industrial harmony in the health sector, especially as the December 14, 2013 deadline issued to the Federal Government to concretely resolve the demands of the NMA draws closer”, today’s statement said.

Dr. Enabulele further stated that the efforts of his association to engage the leadership of the Health Ministry have repeatedly collapsed, “following the unserious approach and attitude of the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health who seem to be less bothered about the potential crisis which may erupt in Nigeria’s health sector from Saturday, December 14, 2013”.

The NMA blamed the impending crisis on the levity and lack of concrete commitment exhibited by the government through the Ministry.

It would be recalled that the striking university lecturers also blamed their protracted strike, which has resulted in a major crisis in the academic sector on the negative attitude of the federal government to their demands.

The lecturers, under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), said they had written more than 50 letters to the Presidency concerning the need to implement the agreements reached with them since 2009, but that the President ignored all their warnings before they finally embarked on the labour action, which is still on.

A similar process took place in the handling of crisis at the polytechnics, and lecturers say it is characteristic of the federal government of Nigeria to make promises but make no effort at implementation.

“Therefore the Nigerian Medical Association most distressingly alerts the entire nation about the imminent collapse of health services across the entire country given the apparent levity and lack of concrete commitment so far exhibited by the Government through the Federal Ministry of Health,” NMA warned

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