Members of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, Imo State would today, Tuesday, 10 January, begin an indefinite strike over four months unpaid salaries by management of the health facility.
The action would completely cripple all services at the health facility, with other staffs of the hospital already been on strike since October last year, when the medical director, Angela Uwakwem, was reinstated by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), after months of suspension due to disharmony with the staffs.
The ARD FMC Owerri action is pursuant to an earlier 21-day ultimatum given on since 15 December, 2015, to the management of FMC Owerri, under the watch of Uwakwem, a woman, who has had about two years of turbulent battle with virtually all the staffers of the health institution, arising from her alleged poor management style.
According to Ogoke Nwakanma, president of Association of Resident Doctors, FMC chapter, along with other executive committee members of the association, in a briefing with newsmen in Owerri Monday, all resident doctors in FMC, Owerri are yet to receive their December 2015 and October to December 2016 salaries, for reasons best known to the management of the hospital.
Nwakanma, speaking in a crowded hall of resident doctors, said all presentations to and meetings with the FMC Owerri management over their plight have yet to receive a positive response from the authorities led by Uwakwem.
He said: “Resident Doctors in FMC Owerri are yet to receive their December 2015 salary. Uptill now only Resident Doctors in FMC Owerri are yet to be paid their October, November and December, 2016 salaries, whereas our colleagues elsewhere have received theirs.”
The ARD FMC chapter president also lamented that since 2014, Resident Doctors in the hospital are being paid only a percentage of their full salary, as agreed between Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Federal Government in 2013; despite a reinforcement of the agreement in a meeting.
Meanwhile, other issues that concern residents in FMC Owerri and those of other FMCs in the country include: “poor condition of service; non-remittance of our pensions to our various Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs); full implementation of the Unified Residency Training Manual; circularization of the House Officers Entry point; immediate enrollment of our members into the Integrated Payroll & Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform to ensure appropriate remuneration.
The FMC resident doctors said they also join other residents in the country to “totally condemn the no-work no-pay policy in the health sector.”
When BusinessDay visited the office of the Medical Director of FMC Owerri, Angela Uwakwem, on Monday, she refused to speak with our correspondent; but rather referred us to the hospital’s public relations officer, who simply said: “The MD is not disposed to speak on the matter, as it is a national issue.”
When prodded further on why only FMC Owerri was yet to pay its over 200 resident doctors, since October last year, the PRO quoting the MD, Uwakwem, said: “I am not disposed to comment on the matter. You can go and write whatever the Resident Doctors had told you.”
It is recalled that services at the FMC Owerri had been evidently run down since about 2014, when deep crises erupted between the MD and staffers of the hospital, over poor management of the facility. The staffers had accused Uwakwem of mismanagement of the tertiary health facility’s finances, outsourcing of equipment, units and introduction of alleged dubious bank accounts into which hospital fees were paid.
Following many months of strikes and lockouts by the staffs, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health set up an investigative inquiry on the Uwakwem led management of the hospital; while she was placed on suspension. But it was said the panel set up by Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, found her (Uwakwem) not culpable of the allegations levelled against her; and recommended her to be reinstated.
Upon her reinstatement last October (2016), all the staffs of the hospital went on strike, declaring that they did not want her back in the facility.
Only resident doctors have been offering services at the place since October last year. But sadly, they too are now proceeding on strike, over non-payment of their salaries since then. They claimed that other staffs who are on strike have been collecting salaries.