The federal government and workers in the health sector yesterday failed to reach a consensus on the plan for an upward review of the N5,000 monthly hazard allowance for doctors and other health workers
At a meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Hazard Allowance for the health sector that held yesterday in Abuja, both government representatives and unions in the health sector, however, agreed that the N5,000 hazard allowance was obsolete and should be reviewed upwards.
But the meeting could not reach any consensus on the percentage increase in the hazard allowance for doctors and other health workers.
THISDAY gathered from a source at the closed-door meeting that the various professional bodies and unions in the health sector proposed different percentages.
Although the federal government did not mention any specific figure, the meeting agreed to set up a committee to harmonise the various proposals made by the unions.
The source said the committee, comprising representatives of government and the health workers would report back to the meeting to be reconvened in three weeks' time.
"Different percentages were submitted by different health workers' union and associations and this would be reviewed in three weeks' time," the source said.
He added that the doctors were proposing a 50 per cent increase in the hazard allowance.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, which lasted for over six hours, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, explained that the meeting was convened in furtherance of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in April 2020 between the federal government and the health workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said following the complaint received from the health workers, the Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC), headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, initiated a move to review the hazard allowance currently pegged at N5,000 per month.
According to Ngige, a stakeholders' meeting was convened shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, during which an MoU was signed on how to tackle issues relating to the welfare and compensation for doctors and other health workers in the frontline of efforts to arrest the spread of the virus.
He said there was delay in the implementation of the MoU due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Ngige told the gathering that the issue of government reneging on the MoU did not arise as the federal government had demonstrated its willingness to fortify the health sector and to provide adequate welfare package for workers.
He said that as a mark of government's desire to ensure that the welfare and interest of the doctors and other frontline health workers were protected, it approved a special COVID-19 hazard allowance totalling N32 billion, which was disbursed for three months, from April to June, last year.
On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, urged the doctors and other health workers to show patience and understanding of the challenges of the dwindling income accruing to the government.
According to him, medical professionals should see the critical nature of their job to humanity and avoid strikes, which would ultimately put people's lives in danger.
Apart from the review of the hazard allowance, the meeting received submissions on the demands for the extension of retirement age for doctors and other professionals in the health sector.