Nigerian Medical Association has directed its doctors nationwide to remain "at their duty posts and work relentlessly to render uninterrupted services" as support staff begin a planned strike Wednesday midnight.
NMA is particular about emergency services in hospitals, which will be affected when groups of health workers--from nurses and midwives to pharmacists and technicians in federal government-run health institutions--abandon their duty posts by Thursday morning.
The strike under an umbrella group known as Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) comes after an ultimatum it issued the federal health ministry early August expired.
It said the ministry failed to implement agreements reached by both sides and ruling handed down by the National Industrial Court.
"While we have nothing against the right of people to determine how best to actualize their demands, we shall however not tolerate any attempt to obstruct medical and dental practitioners in the course of rendering their official duties," said NMA.
In a statement, NMA president Dr Osahon Enabulele, called on hospital chief medical directors to provide "adequate security" and ensure hospital materials, equipment and facilities remain accessible.
"We also call on all Chief Medical Directors to ensure sustained provision of clinical and healthcare services to Nigerians in all public hospitals," he said.
JOHESU on Tuesday apologised for the disruptions its industrial action could cause, but said health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu should be held responsible.
Among its grievances, it wants:
· the report of a presidential committee into harmony in the health sector implemented
· health professionals promoted from level 14 to 15 on the consolidated health salary scale
· a 2008 report into job evaluation implemented
· a review of retirement age from 60 t0 65 years
· the boards of federal teaching and specialist hospitals to be reconstituted to give equitable representation for union and professional associates
JOHESU insists none of the issues agreed upon earlier "has been implemented."
Issues on which both parties failed to reach agreement were taken to the National Industrial Court. They include allowances for consultants and specialists, call and shift duty, contentions in the National Health Bill and decision not to skip the 10th level on CONHESS.
The union said the minister did not attend a meeting called by the labour minister on August 19, a day before the strike was called, and did not send a representative.
BY JUDD-LEONARD OKAFOR
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