The Nigeria Medical Association in Bayelsa State has threatened to withdraw health services in public hospitals over five months salary arrears owed its members.
Dr. Israel Jeremiah, the state Chairman of NMA, who said this at a news conference in Yenagoa, gave the mandatory 21 days notice to the Bayelsa State Government.
The strike notice, dated June 6, was for the three affiliates of the NMA in the state.
The NMA noted that the non-payment of salary in Bayelsa State since January 2016 had taken a negative toll on the health sector as residents could no longer afford to seek medical attention and compelled to either patronise quacks or resort to self medication.
Jeremiah listed the affiliates as the Association of Resident Doctors in Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri; the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria; and the National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners.
He noted that the worst affected were the House Officers who were the most vulnerable in the medical profession could no longer meet their obligations and faced untold hardship.
Jeremiah said: “In spite the untold hardship occasioned by this non-payment of salaries for five months now, our members have kept faith with our Hippocratic Oath and continued to render services and ensured that Bayelsa people get the needed healthcare.
“The continued non-payment of salary has adversely affected healthcare delivery in the state.
“Hospital attendance has markedly reduced, patients can no longer procure drugs, pay for tests, settle bills on discharge and in the worst case scenario, opt to die at home.”
The NMA noted that the association was not part of the agreement that the Bayelsa State Government reached with organised labour to pay workers in the state 50 per cent salary pending the improvement of the state’s revenue.
The association maintained that it will insist of full payment of their members’ salary as it was excluded from the meetings where the agreement to accept 50 per cent salary was reached and therefore cannot be bound by the agreement.
Jeremiah said: “We dissociate ourselves completely from the purported agreement between NLC/TUC and Bayelsa government where a payment of 50 per cent monthly salaries among other agreements were said to have been reached.
“We insist on full payment of our salaries 100 per cent in full.”
The association noted that if the outstanding salaries were not paid before the expiration of the strike notice, which will lapse on June 27, 2016, all affiliates of NMA will be compelled to go on indefinite strike and full withdrawal of medical services.
They urged well-meaning people of Bayelsa State, the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Royal fathers, opinion leaders and statesmen to intervene to avert the looming strike and its disastrous consequences.