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Why we are going on strike August 16 –Medical consultants

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Amarachi Okeh

The Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria has threatened to embark on a nationwide strike on August 16 unless the government addresses its wage issues. 

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an interview, on Wednesday, the President of MDCAN, Prof. Ken Ozoilo said the strike action was to protest the directive of the Nigerian Salaries, Income and Wages Commission that hospitals paying lecturing doctors should stop.

According to Ozoilo, the commission’s directive was contained in a letter released on April 23.

This MDCAN strike threat is coming several days after the commencement of strike action by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors.

The NARD’s strike, now in its second week, was also over wage issues.

Ozoilo, who is a consultant surgeon at the University of Jos said, “We have issued an ultimatum because of a letter written by the NSWIC.

“Out of the 17 Federal Universities that have medical schools, six had taken the initiative to pay their doctors who are lecturers using the consolidated medical salary structure. 

“So, they were paying them as doctors even though they were working in the university and that was how they were able to improve their income so that they would not be losing money.

“What NSWIC did was to ask these universities to stop. The directive says we should not be paid as doctors but rather as lecturers. But we know that we are doctors as well as lecturers. 

“The truth is that the payment system they are using right now is having a negative effect on the health sector because people are leaving the medical profession.

“So, it was when they (NSWIC) wrote that letter directing the universities to stop paying doctors that are lecturing as doctors that we gave the strike ultimatum. It was when we decided that this has gone too far.”

Ozoilo explaining further said the intended strike action is to protest and address issues relating to the remunerations of honorary consultants. 

“It basically has to do with the remunerations of a category of consultants we call honorary consultants. They are lecturers.

“There is a peculiarity in the nature of their job because they are employed as lecturers in the universities faculties of medicine and they are also employed as consultants in the teaching hospital

“So, the nature of the work is that each of those two jobs is full-time. Even if the students are on holiday, they are still at the hospitals working. Even if there’s an ASUU strike they are in the hospital working and even if the hospital is on strike, they are in the university working.

“So, it is two full-time jobs but since 2009 the government payment system has short-changed this category of lecturers such that at the end of the day if you put together what the university and hospital pay them it is less than what they would have earned if it’s only the hospital that employed them because there are some hospitals that just employ just doctors without giving them lecturing assignment.

“They are not lecturers but they pay them what is considered the standard pay for a doctor but the lecturer in the university who also is a consultant at the teaching hospital if you put their combined income together it is less than if they were to be working in the hospital alone as full-time consultants.”

Ozoilo noted that this unfair treatment has been going on since 2009 when the federal government negotiated a new salary for lecturers and doctors.

He also notes that even in retirement, the package of a lecturing doctor is lower than that of a consultant.

Ozoilo said that MDCAN sees this as an anomaly that must be corrected.

He said many consultant doctors are leaving the lecturing job to take up offers at Federal Medical Centres, adding that many consultants have also left the university system for Saudi Arabia to practice.

The medical consultant association, he said, has not been able to attract younger professionals into its fold because of the low wages.

“We are trying to tell the government that this is not right and something should be done,” the MDCAN president said.

Ozoilo had while speaking on Channels TV show, Sunrise Daily on Wednesday stated that the association had delayed the decision on strike action because its members are senior doctors who are concerned about the effect of the strike, especially in the health sector.

“We do not like to go on strike for any reason unless it has become inevitable.”

Ozoilo called on the government and the NSWIC to find an urgent solution to the problem to avert the strike action.

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