Osun NMA protest arrears of salaries, say no drugs in public hospitals

Doctors’ claims are far from the truth, Aregbesola reacts
By Nofisat Marindoti, The Nigerian Voice, Osogbo
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The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Osun State chapter on Thursday, staged a peaceful protest in Osogbo, the state capital, over issues of salary arrears and poor health care facilities in the state.

The doctors protested from the NMA state Secretariat along Gbogon/Ibadan road to the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park, via the Ogo-Oluwa/Olaiya route, carrying barbers and placards with various inscriptions to press home their demands.

The doctors lamented that the state government has not taken care of them and that the health sector in the state was not well funded to the extent that there were no drugs in the public hospitals.

The state Chairman of NMA, Dr Tokunbo Olajumoke who led the protest while speaking with journalists, said the state government owed the medical doctors in the state the arrears of the modulated salaries of about two years.

Dr Olajumoke also expressed that the state government is imposing heavy tax on the doctors despite that they were not well paid. The NMA chairman said the doctors could no longer meet their financial obligations and cater for their needs

The NMA chairman appealed to the state governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola to ensure the payment of the arrears of the salaries of the doctors without delay to avoid full wrath of the doctors and prevent consequences.

According to him, "The NMA is deeply concerned about the continued decadence in the health Sector and the poor treatment of health workers in Osun State, hence the urgent need to bring to the public notice this worrisome and unimaginable handling of the sector and the health care givers by the state government.

"Despite the enthusiasm of our members in the state to render health care services when the conditions of service delivery in our hospitals have gone from bad to worse, the government of Osun state has consistently incapacitated health workers by her vicious and unscrupulous remuneration policies.

"We wish to put on record that our members in the employment of the state government and her agencies have been receiving about a quarter of their salaries (as prescribed by the National Salaries and Wages Commision) since July, 2015.

"This unfortunate situation resulted from the purported payment of less than 50% from an outdated salary scale, obnoxious FULL taxation on the fraction of salaries and non-implementation of the extant circulars on the Revised Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (Revised CONMESS) by the state government.

"Some of our affiliates who embarked on industrial actions at various times over the general neglect of the health care system were compelled to suspend actions in the interest of the good people of the state and have since offered health care services despite the failed promises and neglect of the sector.

"Today, our members are being owed between 10 and 15 months’ salary arrears by the state government. Prior to (1) above, our members worked 8 months without salaries in 2015 and following the release of the first bailout by the Federal government, Osun state government not considering the sacrifices offered during these period decided to cut salaries by over 50% without any communication."

"The NMA (who has the sole responsibility to negotiate doctors’ salary) WAS NEVER part of the decision that led to the present “modulated Salaries”. The term “Modulated Salaries” as a means of remuneration for civil servants is completely alien to the law of the land. NMA as an association has never and will never be a part of this illegality.

"At the commencement of the initial agitation for appropriate remunerations, our members met with the different hierarchies of government in the state and were given assurances that our demands will be met as soon as the financial situation of the state improves. With the rate of ongoing work on 'Federal’ and State capital projects in the state, it is obvious that the finance of the state has “significantly improved”

"The government of the day has been economical with the truth with regards to its total income and the fraction of its income that is being deplored towards the payment of salaries and other emoluments. How much of the more than 11 billion naira initial refund from Paris club over deductions released to the state in December was used to pay salaries?", NMA quaeried.

However in a reaction to the NMA’s claims, the Director Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the Office of the Governor in Osogbo, Osun State, Mr Semiu Okanlawon said the doctors’ claims were far from the truth.

Okanlawon said Osun remains committed to the welfare of the doctors and the generality of the workers in the state.

"The government of the State of Osun is aware of the claims by the Nigerian Medical Association today over issues of welfare where its leadership has accused the Rauf Aregbesola-led administration of insensitivity to their welfare.

"This is far from the truth. This government has engaged the doctors, perhaps, more than any other category of workers in the state, on the need to be sensitive to the hardship foisted on the finances of the state especially since Nigeria as a whole entered into its trying period of economic recession.

"The Osun government has developed perhaps the most ingenious formula for satisfying the needs of its workforce within the limit of the available resources.

"This was what necessitated the setting up of a revenue apportionment committee led by no less personality than a former number labour leader in Nigeria and veteran labour activists on the continent of Africa, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu.

"On the state of the health facilities, the doctors must be fair enough to admit that the health sector of Osun has witnessed a huge improvement since the coming of this administration.

"Apart from the huge investment of about N1.8bn for the upgrading of the state General Hospitals, this administration has ensured that health care safety and emergency measures are improved as with the provision of the state-of-the-art ambulances across the length and breath of this state.

"As a professional body whose duty it is to safe lives, we expect and continue to implore the doctors to see themselves as partners with the government in the overall task of ensuring the sanctity of lives which the doctors also swore an oath to protect.

We hereby wish to reiterate for the umpteenth time, that the Rauf Aregbesola administration remains a labour-friendly one and we have always called on all groups, including the NMA to be sensitive to the prevailing economic situation across the land while the government continues its relentless efforts to make the best of the situation we have found ourselves as a country." Okanlawon added.