The nation may be about to experience yet another convulsion in its health services as medical doctors all over the country brace for a likely return to the trenches. The Nigerian Medical Association, in a press statement of 27 January 2007, totally rejected the new Consolidated Tertiary Institutionsí Salary Structure (CONTISS) as contained in the circular released by the Federal Government on the 18 January 2007. After constituting a panel to further advice the Association, the NMA met the weekend of 9 to 11 February for deliberation on the next line of action.
For its own part, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), at the extra-ordinary General Meeting which was held at the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Osogbo over the same weekend, issued a three week ultimatum to the Federal Government to withdraw doctors from the CONTISS as presently structured, to create a Medical Salary Scale/Medical Super Salary Scale as proposed by the NMA, and to create a Medical Service Commission. Failing this, all resident doctors are to proceed on a two-day warning strike on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 March 2007. In the event that a satisfactory resolution is still not found, an indefinite strike is to commence with effect from 8am on Monday 19 March 2007.
According to the CONTISS, medical doctors are now grouped with Non Academic Staff of Tertiary Institutions, staff of Polytechnics, Colleges of Education, Research and Allied Institutes. This grouping, apart from being at variance with governmentís position on other professional groups, lumps doctors with other cadres with different schedules of duty, without taking into consideration the peculiarities of the services being rendered by the medical profession.
In addition, the new scale breaches the subsisting agreement with the Federal Government with respect to Call Duty and Basic Salary, according to which Call Duty Allowance is pegged at 4% of Basic Salary in order to ensure a just and equitable review of the former with every salary review. By the new arrangement, the call duty is a fixed amount, which is in effect a reduction from existing call duty.
Professional allowances such as inducement, clinical duty and other allowances related to the medical profession have now been made general in the said CONTISS. Worse still, the per annum Hazard Allowance has been pegged at a paltry Twenty Thousand Naira. This can only be described as cynical on the part of government, with blatant disregard for the risks associated with medical practice in a country like Nigeria.
Slowly but surely, the dignity and morale of medical practitioners in this country is being eroded. Others less resilient have long since left the shores of the country. The number and quality of those willing to remain is sure to dwindle if the Government adopts the CONTISS. Doctors are resolved to see that the spoilers in power do not succeed.Niran Okewole