On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, announced a sit-at-home strike action from May 22 to May 24.
To some, who are not abreast of the developments in Ogun State, that action appears justifiable. After all, healthcare workers, as frontline defence in the ongoing battle against the coronavirus pandemic, deserve the best of attention.
But there is a snag; the state government has already bent over backwards to accommodate the doctors’ demands. Even prior to the onset of the pandemic, the Dapo Abiodun-led administration had characterised the role of health workers in the state as both unquantifiable and invaluable.
And, since the pandemic broke out, the government heightened the spotlight in which caregivers were placed, relying on their expertise to overcome the pandemic. In particular, the administration interfaced with the ARD and other relevant bodies in the sector. These groups had presented separate letters to the government on January 7, February 13, and in April, requesting to have a meeting with it over issues surrounding basic minimum wage and the appropriate remuneration with regard to the entry point on the CONMESS salary scale being moved.
The government responded with dispatch. The Secretary to the State Government, Commissioner for Health, Head of Service, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and other key officials held meetings with the caregivers to determine what incentives could be immediately provided for all healthcare workers in the state. After exhaustive deliberations, the parties arrived at the need for a 200 per cent upward review of hazard allowance (from N5,000 to N15,000) and the provision of life insurance for the over 7800 healthcare workers in the state.
In spite of this, though, the ARD embarked on a three-day warning strike. As a matter of fact, the pandemic has drastically reduced the ability of state governments to generate funds. The World Health Organisation (WHO) described the Ogun State Isolation center as simply amazing and worthy of emulation. This demonstrates that it means business, and is playing no games with the lives of the people.
To read the opponent’s diatribe, you would think that the Abiodun administration had not given the ARD members a listening ear; that it was treating them with scorn. Yet nothing can be further from the truth.
The objective is to distract the government and create a fertile political ground for political ambition while the pandemic rages. Doctors ought to respect the sanctity of human lives; they ought to place the interest of patients above self-aggrandisement.
Femi Emmanuel, Ijebu Igbo
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