FG soft-pedals on sacking striking doctors

Federal government has only suspended and not sacked resident doctors, minister of health, Professor Onyebuchi Chuwku, has said, blaming the media for misrepresenting the fact.

A letter dated 13 August, 2014 and signed on behalf of the health minister by L. N. Awute, a permanent secretary in the ministry, had said: “President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the residency training programme for doctors in Nigeria indefinitely for the purposes of appraising the challenges facing the health sector.

“In line with the above, the Honourable Minister has directed that you issue letters of termination of Residency Training appointment to the affected Resident Doctors in your Hospital immediately.”

The prototype letter to be given to the doctors stated clearly their appointments were being terminated.


But speaking on Wednesday, Chukwu said it was a suspension and not a sack.

“They were not sacked, it is a matter of interpretation. For example, someone while still working actively dies, or whether that person resigned or was dismissed or retired or terminated all mean different things in the public service.

“But the end point is that the person is no longer working.


“I want us to put things in perspective. Government did not sack anybody. It is true that they themselves have not been working for almost two months, except those in private hospitals. Resident doctors in both federal and state hospitals have not been working for almost two months now and they have not participated in the control of this Ebola virus disease, they have not played any role.

“So even if government had not taken any decision, they are not there, they are not working and I don’t know why suddenly the media starts taking interest in them. They are not part of this success story. But what happened is like in the aviation industry where when you buy a ticket and you fail to show up they say “no show” and they even penalise you.

“So there is no show of the resident doctors and even government is still paying them. People who are unemployed… even some doctors will be asking government a question, is it because we did not have an appointment letter? What is the difference, you are paying people who are not working, we too are not working, why are you not paying us?

“Sometimes we need to think deeply about what we do to ourselves. Government says why can’t we use this period to appraise properly the residency programme and come up with something that can help the country. Training of a doctor must be done properly. They have an allotted time to acquire skills. Anybody can pass the theoretical exams but has he acquired the skills?


“We need to be honest with ourselves. If you suspend any course do you keep students redundant? You give them opportunity if they feel you are wasting their time they can apply for other courses.”

Chukwu said government’s decision only affects resident doctors in federal hospitals and “it is not permanent”.

“I believe we will quickly appraise this situation and hopefully government will resume residency programme because honestly we need to train doctors in the specialist,” he added.

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