THE Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Benue has ordered all its members to embark on indefinite strike following government inability to meet their demands.
This is contained in a press statement jointly signed by the association’s state Chairman and Secretary, Messrs Obekpa Obekpa and Nwaeze Chukwuemeka, respectively.
A copy of the statement was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Makurdi.
NAN reports that the organised labour in the state had been on strike for the past seven days on account of non-payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities running over eight months.
The NMA officials stated that the indefinite strike became imperative following the expiration of its seven-day warning strike and the inability of the Benue Government and Management of Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi, to meet their demands.
They said they were left with no option other than the indefinite industrial action to press home their demands.
“The congress passed a vote of confidence on the current executives; the strike action embarked upon by doctors in Benue state continues indefinitely until all the demands are satisfactorily met.
“The congress expressed gross dissatisfaction on the subversive roles of her members in the course of the warning strike, therefore referred them to its disciplinary committee for necessary action,’’ the statement read in part.
According to the association, those referred for discipline are Dr Peteru Inunduh, Medical Director, FMC, Makurdi; Dr Cecilia Ojabo, the state Commissioner for Health and Human Services; and Prof. Terlumun Swende, CMD, Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH).
“Others are Dr Matthew Ochiefa, Head of Clinical Services FMC, Makurdi, and Dr Isaac Nombur, Chairman, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), FMC, Makurdi.’’
The statement however commended the patience and understanding of members despite acts of intimidation and official harassment.
“Congress appreciates and salutes the patience and understanding of her members in the face of insecurity, intimidation and harassment on the part of the management of FMC, Makurdi, and Benue Government,” it said.
NAN recalls that the NMA in its earlier ultimatum decried the acute shortage of doctors in hospitals in the state and disclosed that the state has “less than 50 medical doctors’’.
The association therefore expressed shock that government was forcing doctors working under the Benue State Bond Scheme to resign, saying that such a step is strange for a state without adequate physicians.
NAN reports that the bond, signed by the state government in 2009, compels all graduating medical doctors of Benue origin to work for the state government upon graduation.
Sen. Gabriel Suswam, then Benue governor, had premised the step on the need to minimise the shortage of doctors in the state.
The association further alleged that health institutions were not properly funded and lamented that basic medical consumables were lacking in most hospitals.
The association also called for more refresher courses for doctors to boost service delivery in the state.
NMA had accused government of “serially failing to honour agreements after collective bargains”, and declared that the doctors were “out of patience”.