By Ovie Okpare
Medical doctors in Delta State have concluded plans to embark on three days warning strike following alleged refusal by the State Government to implement “COVID-19 Inducement Incentives” otherwise called COVID-19 hazard allowance for health workers in the state.
NIGER DELTA TODAY Online exclusively learnt that the warning strike will commence next week Monday July 27 and end on Wednesday.
Sources told our correspondent that the doctors through the Delta branch of the Nigeria Medical Associattion (NMA) have already served Governor Ifeanyi Okowa the warning strike notice after series of meeting between government representatives and doctors ended in deadlock.
It was learnt that the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, who led government officials to meet with the doctors on Monday, had reportedly told the aggrieved doctors that the state cannot afford their demands with the current financial reality.
Ononye was said to have also told the medical doctors that Okowa has ordered exemption of doctors and other medical workers from the pay cut which the state government recently introduced with the suspension of the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage.
Recall that this medium had exclusively reported that the state government has suspended further implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage for workers of grade level 7-17 owing to the dwindling economy in the state as a result of the coronavirus.
One of the sources who attended the Monday meeting quoted the Health Commissioner as saying, “That COVID 19 induced drop in oil prices has led to marked reduction in revenue. Hence the Government cannot cope with the current wage bills.
“That Health Workers in the State will be exempted from the salary cut expected to commence with July Salary.
“That it will be difficult to implement the COVID 19 inducement hazard allowance in addition to the current Special Risk Allowance being paid to health workers in the various isolation centers across the state.
“That instead of inducement allowances, he will propose tax waiver on all our other allowances to his Excellency as requested.
“That he will also propose a permanent upward review of the current Hazard Allowance to His Excellency.
“Efforts will be made to improve on the registration process for life insurance for our members by increasing the number of registered health workers.”
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However, when contacted on the development, the State NMA chairman, Dr Omo Ekeneam, confirmed the proposed warning strike to NIGER DELTA TODAY Online.
Ekeneam said, “We are going on a warning strike on Monday. The strike will end on Wednesday next week. The reason for the warning strike is that there is an agreement at the federal level between the health workers and the Federal Government for a special COVID-19 allowance for health workers and that is because of the increased risk for the health sector as a result of the pandemic.
“We have written to His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, appealing to him to domesticate it in Delta State and so far we have not gotten any favourable response from the government. That’s why in our meeting held last week, my members decided that we should go on a three-day warning strike to press home our demands. The warning strike is for only doctors.”
On the exemption of doctors from Delta pay cut, the NMA chairman said, “Doctors were exempted because that is understandable. All through the lockdown, doctors were working. Doctors have been reporting to work every day. Delta has created four isolation centres without new doctors being recruited rather it is the same doctors that are made to face more work.
“Doctors have double their work because of the pandemic. For us, it is not unexpected to see that we are exempted because our members have been working even with the increase in the risks of the hazards they now face.”