The Government of Osun State has said that it was impossible to meet the demand of the state striking medical doctors in the face of the present economic realities.
The Chairman of the state Special Committee on Health, Dr Simeon Afolayan, announced this at a press conference on Friday in Osogbo.
“It remains unbelievable that less than a hundred resident doctors would insist that they would not be bound by the modulated payment regime agreed to by over 39,000 other workers of the state.
“The decision of the state to live within its means, in the light of the shortfall in revenue, was taken by all stakeholders, including all the representatives of labour unions and government,” the chairman said.
Afolayan, who is also a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and the Hospital Management Board, maintained that contrary to the doctors’ claim, their association was duly represented on the committee that sat on the revenues accrued to the state and decides on what goes into payment of salaries and the running cost of government.
He said if the entire workforce of about 40,000 agreed to a pact, such a tough decision cannot be abrogated by one group, whose member is less than 100.
“There is no way we could back down on this, because, in the first instance, other professionals had accepted the agreement reached with labour. Doctors were eager to join the general strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) even though they claim they are not affiliated to NLC but they refused to resume work when the strike was called off. When it is convenient for doctors, they hearken to the voice of labour unions only to claim decisions taken by the same union is not bidding on them.”
The Chairman said that the doctors have remained recalcitrant despite all entreaties by leading lights of the medical profession.
He announced that government has commenced the deployment of doctors from the Ministry of Health, Bowen University, the Police, Army and others to mitigate the effect of the emergency situation created by the strike.
Afolayan pointed out that the doctors have embarked on varying industrial actions for about 11 months, out of which government had paid for six months of no work.
He called on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the doctors to call off their strike in the interest of the poor masses that suffering as a result of the industrial action.
The chairman also enjoined the striking workers not to force government to invoke the civil service regulation that stipulates that workers, who absent themselves from work, beyond certain limit, are deemed to have resigned their appointments.
He added that the rule has taken effect, but that government was considerate enough to give fresh opportunity to those who still want to render services.
Reacting to government’s position, Dr Owolabi Adeyinka, the President of Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Osogbo, said that government grievance was beyond salary issues.
He stated that, in addition to salary issue, other areas of concern involve what he calls ‘killer tax’ imposed on doctors.
Adeyinka insisted the doctors could not be bound by government’s agreement with the labour union, noting that “doctors are essential service providers and are not part of labour unions”.
He, however, said the association was not averse to negotiation that would allow for a comprehensive negotiation, which is not tailored by any previous agreement.
“Government has never called us to a formal discussion. All discussions that had taken place are informal. We are however optimistic of a positive reconciliation if government agrees to negotiate with us,” Adeyinka said.
The state government had, three weeks ago, placed advertorials in some national dailies, calling on eligible medical doctors to apply for jobs into its hospitals.
By Adeyinka Salaam, Osogbo