The doctors under the umbrella of the National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMP), Ekiti State chapter, are set to down their tools beginning from midmight Friday (tomorrow).
The union, which accused the govrernment of neglecting the state’s health sector as allegedl experienced under the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Kayode Fayemi, have given the government up till 11:59p.m on Friday to address all its concerns.
In an ultimatum addressed to the state governor, Abiodun Oyebanji, and signed by its Chairman, Alo Akinleye, and the Secretary, Olajide Abimbola, NAGGMP highlighted its challenges and demanded a prompt resolution from the government.
The ultimatum, which commenced on 8 March, followed the expiration of an initial 14-day ultimatum which started on 17 February.
The challenges identified by the doctors include: pay disparity affecting doctors among doctors in the state, inadequate workforce, and that the entry-level of newly employed doctors should be grade level 13 as it reportedly obtains in other parts of the country.
On pay disparity
The doctors’ association emphasised in the ultimatum that the singular demand of pay parity has been on the frontburner of its requests for the past three years and that committees have been set up with their reports begging for implementation.
NAGGMP chairman urged the state government to resolve the problem of pay disparity affecting the doctors “under the employment of Hospital Management Board (HMB), Ministry of Health and the Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA) compared to their counterparts in federal employment”.
Mr Akinleye said the governor who has only spent a couple of months in office has not shown commitment to improving the welfare of doctors and resolving the issues that have lingered from the past administrations.
He said the governor in a meeting with the association in January approved the payment of hazard allowances which was applauded but the promise made to bridge the gap of pay disparity by 50 per cent has not been implemented, hence the reason for the ultimatum to down tools.
Mr Akinleye noted that the problem of inadequate workforce is connected to other issues.
In the ultimatum, the association noted that “the current workforce of 66 doctors covering 22 specialist and general hospitals is grossly inadequate and the inability to attract fresh hands is a direct consequence of pay disparity”.
Explaining this, Mr Akinleye said some of the newly graduated medical students would prefer to work with the Federal Medical Centre, Ido Ekiti, to the HMD or PHCDA because of the existing pay disparity.
He further noted that the inadequate workforce is affecting the lifestyle of the available doctors as most of them spend 24 hours attending to patients every day of the week.
“Most of our members stay away mostly from their homes. I am on level 15, and I am supposed to have three to four doctors working under my supervision to carry out diagnoses and other basic assignments, but in situations when they are few hands, the workload becomes strenuous for the few available people.
“Most hospitals today are covered by one or two doctors and such doctors will be in the hospital 24/7. To even cater for their own needs would be difficult,” he said.
Speaking on the brain drain, the Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) South-west, Rosiji Babatunde, said “not only are we losing doctors to foreign climes, but we are also having an internal redistribution of this highly skilled manpower”.
“In Ekiti State, just about two to three years ago we have about 800 doctors in the state but as I speak to you we have barely 500 hundred doctors and as soon as our governor was inaugurated on 16 of October we engaged him on the need to rescue the health sector,” Mr Babatunde said.
He also acknowledged that the governor “showed some levels of sincerity” and set up a committee to address the issues but has only implemented one which is the payment of hazard allowance”.
He urged the government to consider the recommendations earlier made as regards the development of the secondary hospitals which he noted get less attention compared to the primary hospitals that receive more funding from NGOs and the federal government.
No doctors want to apply
Mr Babatunde gave a further breakdown of the existing brain drain, noting that the state requires 178 to 200 doctors to run the facilities of the 22 general hospitals but that as of Thursday, only 65 doctors are available.
He said as of November 2022, when they engaged the government, there were about 78 doctors in the general and specialist hospitals, but “now we are left with 65 meaning 13 people have resigned.”
“The simple question is why are they resigning? and if they are resigning we should be able to get fresh hands to replace those that are leaving but at the moment we cannot even attract fresh hands
“At some point, we had the approval to consequentially replace doctors as soon as they left. We needed 15 doctors at some point and only three applied. Just recently we had the approval to feel five spaces, we had only one doctor applying to the hospital,” he explained.
He noted that young doctors who are employed in primary hospitals are now growing faster in terms of pay than those who have spent six years in the service.
“For us, we are recommending that the government should bring stability to the system. Let there be pay parity as it will reduce the velocity of motion of this healthcare professional between the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and it will stop the internal drift, internal migration from all these centres, to the better-paying facilities,” he said.
He added that the NMA is committed to partnering with the government in stabilising the health sector in Ekiti State.
“We will like to put on record that categorically we are not fighting the government we are partnering with the government to make sure that the health system in this state works.
“Secondly, we will also like to put on record that our governor Ekiti state governor is the first governor in the Southwest to implement this new hazard allowance that is being paid at federal institutions so that shows that he is committed but we still need to put more hands on deck,” he said.
In reaction, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Oyebanji Filani, who spoke through the Permanent Secretary of the state’s Ministry of Health & Human Services, Olabisi Arogundade, said the governor has approved the doctors’ demands except for the issue of pay disparity.
Mrs Arogundada said that after meetings held with the top officials of the association, the governor had ordered a committee to look into the pay parity in order to take a decision.
She said: “In view of economic realities and the determination of the government to provide an enabling environment for improved service delivery, the governor graciously approved three of the four demands.
“Approval for payment of hazard allowances to doctors and all clinical health staff as the first state to do so in the country apart from the Federal government; the release of medical residency training fund; deployment of over ten doctors (with more to come) to hospitals in the state and filling of consequential vacancies for the replacement of doctors and health staff who have exited the service.
“The governor has also set up a committee with the Head of Service as chairman to holistically address the remaining one issue of pay parity as it affects other health professionals. After the committee’s assignment, the government will then take a decision”.