NMA Chairman, Dr Stella Adegbehingbe

By Oluwole Josiah

The standoff between the Ondo State Government and its striking medical doctors has continued, despite the offer of 60 percent salary payment to the medical officers.

Efforts made by traditional rulers in the state to broker industrial peace between the Ondo State Government and striking medical officers  had failed to yield results, as the doctors have rejected all entreaties.

The doctors under the National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP), went on an indefinite strike on the 5th of June 2021, after the government refused to meet their demands of a full monthly salary payment.

The state government has been operating fragmented payment of salaries to its workers owing to paucity of funds, but the doctors demanded that they be treated differently.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that some workers have been receiving different percentages of payment, between 30 and 60 percent monthly, depending on the availability of funds.

The government had however offered the doctors 60 percent monthly salary, with a promise to pay the arrears as soon as funds were available.

But the doctors would not accept the offer, vowing to continue to stay away from work until their demands of 100 percent payment were met.

A leading Ondo Monarch, the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom, Victor Kiladejo, had led other highly placed personalities to mediate in the impasse, but the doctors were unyielding.

The Governor,  Rotimi Akeredolu, had  chided the doctors for rejecting part payment of salaries, saying the doctors were not better than other workers who had agreed to collect part payments.

Speaking on the issues, the state Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Stella Adegbehingbe, admitted that the state government had offered the doctors 60 percent payment, but the doctors were insisting on a full salary.

She said the last time the doctors received their salaries was in February this year, leaving the doctors with no means of survival.

She argued that it was wrong for the government to place them at the same level with other doctors in terms of payment of salaries because the work they do demanded a special consideration.

“The type of work we do, is not the type of work that you won’t be at work,” she said.

“ During the Covid pandemic we were at work, everybody was at home and a lot of health workers got infected .

“ UNIMED THC was flagged with a high level of health workers getting infection. That is why we said our work is different from others, and so we cannot collect percentage salary.

“For you to be at best in your work you have to be psychological okay. This is July, and the last salary we collect was in February. How are you going to concentrate, how are you going to carry out your work?”

Dr. Adegbehingbe noted that with the percentage payment of salary, it would set in some confusion on calculating how much was the balance, or in arrears, noting that she was conscious that the last time she collected salaries was in February and that she was being owned four months.

“All we are saying is that we don’t want fractionated salary, so that we can know how many months you are owing us,” she said.

When told that the state government had accused the doctors of insensitivity, given dire state of patients in the state, she said it was the state government’s responsibility to create the enabling environment for the doctors to work and provide services to the citizens.

“ If you take care of the doctors they will be at work, a hungry man is an angry man. A person with an empty stomach cannot to go and be treating a patient.  He will not be able to deliver a proper care,” she argued.

“Is Ondo state the poorest state in the south west? Why is it that it is only in Ondo that salaries are not being paid?

“Four of our doctors left Ondo State and went to Ekiti because salary is regular there. We want our salaries to be paid 100 percent.

“People cannot pay their rent, pay school fees and fuel their cars. Some with health challenges cannot buy their drugs. I know the government can do it and will do it.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress in the state threatened a show down with the government if it went ahead to pay 100 percent salary to the doctors, while leaving other workers with half salaries.

In a statement after is congress about a week ago, the congress insisted that “Any attempt by the Ondo State Government to covertly or overtly prioritise the payment of 100percent salary to medical officers only will evoke a total breakdown and lockdown of government machinery without notice. This however should not be seen as a threat but, it is a statement of action.

“Medical officers as represented in NAGGMDP, NMA, NARD, etc attends the state salary meetings on a regular basis where government receipts from FAAC and others are given to organised labour and doctors. We there, challenge them again to come out with evidence of money anywhere that can sustain the payment of 100 percent salary to civil servants in the state.

“The position of the NLC Ondo State on the new regime of salary payment has remained that of understanding with the post covid-19 effect on the over-borrowing tendencies even to pay salaries of the Akeredolu-led government.”

The Commissioner of Information, Donald Ojogo, when contacted on how the state government was dealing with the strike challenge, he said he would rather not make any statement, saying the Head of the Civil Service was in charge of the matter.

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