President Muhammadu Buhari, has called on health workers to return to their work, urging others contemplating strikes to choose settlement of issues by negotiation, no matter how long it takes. He assured that all outstanding benefits owed medical doctors would be cleared, after verifications.
According to a statement By Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari said this during a meeting with members of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) at the State House, Friday. He noted that embarking on industrial action at a critical health period for the country and citizens was not a good option.
According to the President the lives of citizens that could be lost or damaged when doctors withdraw services, are precious enough to be worth opting for peaceful resolution of differences.
“Protecting our citizens is not to be left to government alone, but taken as a collective responsibility, in which especially medical professionals play a critical role,” he said. “Let me speak directly to the striking doctors. Embarking on industrial action at this time when Nigerians need you most is not the best action to take, no matter the grievances.
“This Administration has a good track record of paying all debts owed to government workers, pensioners and contractors and we have even revisited debts left by past administrations, once due verification is done. Debts genuinely owed health workers will be settled.”
President Buhari said the outstanding issue of an establishment circulars issued by the Head of Service, removing House Officers, NYSC doctors from scheme of service had an addendum circular from National Salaries and Wages Commission to clarify the true position of things so that they will continue to earn the wages attached to them on their present wage structure. “I request that the agreement reached in the meetings of 20th and 21st August captured in the MOU which I have seen be religiously implemented,” he added.
To further improve the health sector, the President said budgetary allocations have been increased and a Health Sector Reform Committee, under the chairmanship of the Vice President, has been commissioned to identify and address weaknesses in the health system and align with global best practices that raise public confidence. “We are also supporting initiatives to expand health insurance coverage and bring more resources to health financing,” he noted. “We have many more challenges ahead and much more to do, for our large population.
“In this respect, it is important to remind you that, as senior medical personnel and representatives of one of the most respected professional groups in the world, your responsibility for the health and wellbeing of Nigerians are clear,” the President pointed out. “It does not end only with the welfare of your members, but continues with a sense of responsibility for the entire country and its sociopolitical health and national stability,” he added. President Buhari noted that Nigeria’s source of revenue over many years was dwindling, with a rising population.
President of the NMA, Innocent Ujah, thanked the President for appointing members into strategic positions in his government and for assenting to the Medical Residency Act, and immunization coverage. He assured the President of the continuous support of members of the association to improve healthcare in the country.
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