No fewer than 33 states have yet to begin the implementation of the new hazard allowance for resident doctors, despite their risk of contracting COVID-19.
The Secretary of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, Dr Bilqis Mohammed, in a WhatsApp message sent to one of our correspondents, listed states that had started paying the allowance as Lagos, Ogun, Nasarawa and Enugu.
But there was confusion over the payment of the hazard allowance in Ogun State. Contrary to the claim of the national body, the NARD in the state-owned Olabisi Onabanjo Teaching Hospital, Sagamu said its members were not being paid hazard allowance.
But the Enugu State branch of the association confirmed to The PUNCH that its members had started receiving the allowance.
Also on Tuesday, the number of nurses and resident doctors, who had contracted COVID-19, rose to 854.
The NARD secretary said while 319 resident doctors had contracted COVID-19, 14 of them had died of the virus.
The National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives said 535 of its members had contracted the deadly virus.
Recall that the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnibe Mamora, had, on April 27 at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the Federal Government had approved a special incentive which included hazard allowance, insurance and tax rebates for health workers.
Mamora said, “The Federal Government agreed to shelve the payment of the existing N5,000 hazard allowance, which had been in existence since 1991. In its place, a special COVlD-19 hazard and inducement allowance of 50 per cent of the consolidated basic salary is to be paid to all health workers in all the Federal Government teaching hospitals and federal medical centres and her designated COVlD-19 centres and primary health care centres to last for the first three months in the first instance.
“Forty per cent of consolidated basic salary would be paid as special COVlD-19 hazard and inducement allowance to health workers at special non-public hospitals and clinics in the federal ministries, departments and agencies for same three months’ period.”
Resident doctors had in June embarked on a strike to protest the non-implementation of the hazard allowance despite the agreement they signed with the Federal Government.
On Saturday, the NARD gave government an August 17 deadline to meet its demand.
The NARD National President, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, in an interview with The PUNCH, said it was unfortunate that the Federal Government tricked resident doctors to call off their recent strike with the hope that the hazard allowance would be paid.
He said, “The Federal Government paid two months allowance during the strike. Some of our members got it. Some did not get it. Immediately we called off the strike, they stopped the payment of the allowance.
“We are even more concerned about the Federal Government because we know if they start paying, the states would obey too.”
Most of our members still being paid N5,000 hazard allowance – Association
Giving further explanations, the NARD Publicity Secretary, Dr Stanley Egbogu, said “The Majority of the states still pay N5,000 hazard allowance. States like Abia are still owing doctors 16 months’ salaries.”
What we get is below FG’s recommendation – Enugu resident doctors
In Enugu State, medical doctors employed the state government have started receiving hazard medical allowance.
The General Secretary of the ARD in the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Dr Chukwunoso Ofonere, confirmed the payment to one of our correspondents in a telephone conversation.
Although Ofonere said the state government started the hazard allowance payment about three months ago, he regretted that the payment was below the Federal Government’s recommendation.
He said, “Yes, ARD ESUT receives hazard allowance, but not according to the Federal Government’s recommendation. The Federal Government recommended 50 per cent of basic salary as hazard allowance.
“That is what we should receive, but we’re receiving 25 per cent, which is half of what the Federal Government is paying. But notwithstanding, the Enugu State Government is one of the states governments that are paying hazard allowance.”
Ofonere noted that the hazard allowance was being paid to all health workers in the state.
What we have received is not hazard allowance – Ogun doctors
On its part, the ARD at the OOUTH said it had yet to receive hazard allowance .
The Secretary of the ARD at the OOUTH, Dr Tope Osundara disclosed this on Tuesday, while responding to an enquiry from one of our correspondents on whether resident doctors had started receiving the allowance or not.
Osundara said the NARD members had only collected 300 per cent of the former N5,000 hazard allowance, which he said was N15,000.
He said what the association requested was 50 per cent of the consolidated basic salary.
He said, “Fifty per cent of the consolidated basic salary is the hazard allowance we requested, but government is paying N15,000 naira which is 300 per cent of the initial 5,000 naira hazard allowance they were paying .
“Government hasn’t started the implementation of the 50 per cent of consolidated basic salary. They haven’t been paying any doctor in Ogun State .
“The hazard allowance we have received so far is just 300 per cent. We haven’t received anything other than that.”
We have started paying it, Ogun govt insists
But the state government, which spoke through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, said it had commenced the payment of new hazard allowance for all medical workers.
Hazzan said Governor Dapo Abiodun’s administration met N5,000 hazard allowance when it assumed office and increased to N15,000 which is 300 per cent .
He however said the new agitation of the resident doctors might force the government to go back to the drawing board.
535 nurses contract COVID-19
In a related development, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Abdulrafiu Adeniji, said out of 1,350 nurses tested for COVID-19, 535 were confirmed positive.