Vanguard (Lagos)

25 August 2014

Nigeria: NMA Bows to Ebola Threat

Following series of appeals from stakeholders and the health challenges and threats posed by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, in the country, the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, midnight (Saturday) suspended its protracted seven-week old strike it commenced July 1st, 2014.

Consequently, all medical and dental doctors have been directed to resume duty at their working posts with effect from 8.00 hours today, Monday, 25th August, 2014.

Announcing the suspension in a communiqué issued at the end of its Emergency Delegates Meeting held in Abuja on Saturday August 24, 2014, the Association said it resolved to suspend the strike action in the interest of what it described as "urgent national emergencies", while negotiations with the Federal government continue.

At the emergency session which was specifically to consider the updates of the strike action, the strike was suspended following the outcome of voting by members in which 199 voted for suspension, while 96 voted against, out of the total 265 votes cast.

In their resolution, the delegates demanded immediate withdrawal of the government circular (Reference No. C3132/v/46 of 13th August, 2014) suspending the residency training programme and sacking of over 16,000 resident doctors, who constitute about 70 percent of doctors' workforce in Nigeria.

Also, the NMA urged government, on its part, to reciprocate her good will in ensuring that resident doctors whose appointments were so terminated are reinstated immediately without any punitive measures.

Stating its commitment towards the health of Nigerians, and reiterating not to renege in her resolve and total support for the government in the effort to provide qualitative, affordable and accessible health services for the Nigerian people, the delegates commended the efforts of the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government in containing the spread of EVD, and for the establishment of isolation centres in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

"Delegates commended the efforts of the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government in containing the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), and for the establishment of isolation centres in the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

"The NMA mandates her State Ebola Monitoring Committees, SEMCs, to continue to liaise with their state governments to immediately set up emergency response teams for the prevention and treatment of any outbreak of the Ebola virus in their various states, "the statement read.

, Expressing gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate President, National Assembly, Senior Government Officials, the various ministries and agencies of government, friends of the Association and other well-meaning Nigerians towards resolving the face-off.

Confirming the suspension, the Public Relation Officer of the NMA Lagos State branch, Dr. Peters Ogunbiyi , who spoke to Vanguard in a telephone chat said the Association decided to listen to the voice of reasoning.

"President Jonathan has promised to meet all our demands through the Senate President. Specifically, he promised to suspend the circular on the suspension of Residency Training in the country.

We also considered the fact that we have new cases of Ebola from secondary contacts. So we decided to suspend the strike to save Nigerians from unnecessary deaths."

"The NMA remains committed towards the health of Nigerians, and reiterate that she will not renege in her resolve and total support for the government in the effort to provide qualitative, affordable and accessible health services for the Nigerian people. ,

Also speaking, the National President of AGPMPN, Dr. Anthony Omolola described it as a welcome development. "The suspension has actually come and doctors will resume tomorrow. I am one of those who support the suspension of the strike so that we can start moving our health system forward. Also begin a robust dialogue towards having a vibrant health system."

Amosun commends NMA

Commending the NMA for suspending the strike, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun noted that the decision could not have come at a better time when the nation is battling to curb the spread of the dreaded Ebola Virus, which he noted is fast becoming an epidemic.

Amosun, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on media, Mrs Olufunmilayo Wakama, Amosun said: "People should always find amicable ways of resolving crisis. I want to commend the leadership of NMA, for having found a way round the issues that led to the industrial action in the first place.

"I am happy that the strike has been called off at this very crucial time, when the guidance and expertise of our medical personnel are most crucial in containing the Ebola Virus," he said.

Amosun also commended the efforts of the NMA National President, Dr. Kayode Obembe, the Senate President, David Mark, as well as others who were able to prevail on the concerned parties for the favourable outcome.

He expressed the hope that stakeholders would be able to find a final resolution of the dispute while negotiations continue.

Suspension belated but still good - NUAP

On his own part, National President, Nigeria Union of Allied Professionals, NUAP, Comrade Felix Faniran said the suspension, though overdue, was welcome.

"Suspension of strike is welcome. It is long overdue but it is still good. The NMA is our partner in progress. What the other Unions are telling the NMA is that health work is team work and should always relate with the other professionals.

"Rather than oppose whatever benefit government is giving to us. What made them to go on strike on that their 24-point demand is not necessary at all. NMA is not a registered trade union and they have no right to embark on strike at all.

"Since they went on strike and government was so magnanimous in talking with them, they should cash in on that opportunity and use it to the benefit of Nigerians. They have not done well by not calling off the strike despite the fact government has met all their demands.

We would have been on strike but we used maturity and showed signs of reasoning because of the issues at stake such as security and Ebola. And we decided not to go on strike but continue with dialogue. We are still negotiating even though government has not met our demand.

"I think the doctors will learn a lesson from has just happened. Possibly the suspension of the resident doctors forced them to come on but we are happy they are back. I advised the NMA to desist from illegalities they have been perpetrating for years and know that this country belongs to all of us. They should close ranks and work together with other professionals in the interest of the nation."

Lagos State ACPN reacts

Reacting to the development, Chairman, Lagos State Association of Community Phatrmacists, ACPN, Pharm. Abdulsalam Yinka described the suspension as a good development.

"Suspension of strike is a good development because in the first place, strike in the health sector is not good. This is because all of us in the sector are there because somebody must be sick one time or the other. Therefore, it is a belated decision if you consider the plight of the sick.

There wouldn't have been doctors or pharmacists or any other profession so the plight of any patient should be paramount in our mind.

"If the doctors have decided to call off their strike it is what every Nigerian has expected they should have done because healthcare services are to save lives.

Therefore to me suspending the strike is a good thing but dialogue would have been the best option especially this time the nation is plagued with Ebola Virus Disease. They need to join hands with the government and tackle the dreaded disease."

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