Disquiet As COOUTH Resident Doctors Set To Down Tools over Unpaid l MRTF, Hazard Allowance

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By JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON

The current industrial harmony at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka may be lost if the grievances of Resident Doctors at the hospital bordering on non payment of allowances and poor medical infrastructure in the institution are not urgently addressed by the Anambra State Government.

The doctors under the aegis of Association of Resident Doctors (ARD)-COOUTH said on Monday, that they would withdraw their services without further notice if the harsh and poor working conditions persist.

Dr Onyebuchi Ichoku, President ARD-COOUTH who spoke to newsmen said the decision was reached at the Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) following the expiration of a 21 working days ultimatum issued for the government to intervene.

He said the demands included hazard allowance, Medical Residency Training Fund and implementation of 25 percent increase in basic salary with effect from July 2023

“After the expiration of the 21 working day ultimatum given to the state government to implement the basic demands of the resident Doctors or face strike action, we had an OGM where her members unanimously voted for a strike action.

“But the executive pleaded for time so we can reach out to the governor for urgent intervention.

“The OGM also called for the restoration of electricity which was disconnected about two months ago and provision of diagnostic equipment in the hospital for more effective service delivery,” he said.

The ARD chairman said the association had taken their appeal for improved working conditions to the management and State government at different times without respite expressed confidence that Gov. Chukwuma Soludo would address it if it comes to his knowledge.

He said their colleagues at the federal and states including those in the Southeast were already benefiting.

He said the members, having evaluated the situation, resolved to proceed on immediate strike action from the OGM but were prevailed upon by the leadership to give more time and allow the state government to intervene.

He said the poor working conditions had resulted in the continued emigration of their colleagues to outside the country and neighboring institutions adding that it was putting so much pressure on the existing workforce in the hospital.

“As resident doctors, we are entitled to basic allowances and funding, these entitlements are meant to ease some of our financial burdens especially at this time of severe economic hardship.

“Hazard Allowance is an extra amount of money doctors are paid for working in a hazardous environment, it is meant to encourage doctors and other health care workers to attend to patients who pose health risks to them, for example COVID-19 patients.

“For example, lassa fever which continues to claim the lives of health workers on a yearly basis.

“Medical Residency Training Fund as contained in the revised template for payment of associated allowances and course fees for medical residency training and specified by Act No 23 of medical training act 2017.

“We are also asking for a basic salary increment of 25 percent as contained in national salaries, incomes and wages commission circular of July 25, 2023.

“This circular shows that the federal government of Nigeria has approved 25 percent and 35 percent increase in the basic salary for CONMESS 6 and below and CONMESS 7 respectively,” he said.

He said ARD Congress also called for a conducive work environment including diagnostic equipment and better call rooms for members.

In his response, Dr Joe Akabuike, the Chief Medical Director of COOUTH said the demands were legitimate and would be addressed.

Akabuike said though the allowances and increment had been implemented at the Federal level, the state government would do so within the limit of resources available.

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