Healthcare workers under the aegis of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD); Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN); University Graduates of Nursing Science Association (UGONSA) and others have protested the removal of medical officers’ and interns’ salary from the civil/public schemes of service by the Federal Government.
The practitioners who reacted to the development through different fora urged the Federal Government to rescind its decision on the issue as the period of internship is fundamental to the training of healthcare workers which should not be toyed with.
In a circular obtained by Pharmanewsonline, signed by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, dated 12 April 2021, and titled “Internship Programme in the Civil/Public Service”, she gave reason for the scrapping of the programme, while noting that payment of interns allowance has been directed to National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
According to her :”The National Council on Establishments (NCE) at its 42nd meeting held from 30th November 4th December, 2020 in lkeja, Lagos State reviewed the current status of internship programmes/housemanship/NYSC Doctors in the Service, and approved their removal from the Schemes of Service as posts attracting grade levels in the salary structure.
“The Council based its decision on the grounds that the period of these programmes/services form part of the trainings in their respective professions. Interns shall, however, be considered for the payment of allowance to be determined by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
“This approval will be reflected in subsequent edition of the Schemes of Service”, she stated.
While condemning the policy, some pharmacists have taken to their social media handles to flay the leadership of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), for their passivity in advocating the course of Pharmacy.
Pharm. Lucky Osas Osarenkhoe, queried PSN’S action so far on the internship salary saga, saying: “What is PSN doing about this, must we always watch and let the government destroy the profession? I have not seen any memo or letter from the said body countering the government against going ahead with this act. Must we as a profession always hinge our progress and success on other professional body, must we stand still and watch others fight our own fight for us?
“PSN should rise up to her responsibilities and stand for the profession and young pharmacists in this country. If we keep silent about what matters the most, we go down, it’s time to wake up and fight for the future of this profession….” he charged.
In agreement with Osarenkhoe, Pharm. Vincent Okwy also lashed out at the Society for alleged indifference and apathy to members’ welfare. He stated: “PSN is a very selfish organisation, their interest is just to collect money from fresh pharmacists. Have you ever seen them speak up against Nigerian government?”
However, the PSN President, Pharm. (Mazi) Sam Ohuabunwa, explained reasons why the Society is yet to react to the development saying he just saw the news item, while he needs detailed information on the policy before he can make any statement on behalf of the association.
The PSN President, who spoke with Pharmanewsonline in a Telephone interview on Monday said he is yet to get the nitty gritty of the whole policy, and as such, it will be difficult for him to speak in defense of Pharmacy interns.
“I don’t react to what I have no details about. I just saw it as a news item that Federal Government has something to do about internship but yet to get the nitty gritty of the whole thing.
“Due to the challenge internship placement is creating for students, we suggested last year that government should integrate internship with university education, since it’s part of training for pharmacists and others. I don’t know if that is what government is trying to do or otherwise. I will take my time to study the whole thing before speaking on it”, he remarked.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had earlier decried the action, describing it as inappropriate, taken without the interest of Nigerians at heart.
Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, NARD president, maintained that if the government could go all out to implement the decision, then it must also ensure that “the housing allowance, the furniture allowance and every other thing for the politician should be scrapped”. He called for the quick reversal of the directive in order to ensure the promotion of the welfare of affected officers and entrench industrial harmony.
Graduate nurses also learnt their voices to the protest asking government to reverse the decision as the health sector is already a shadow of what it used to be in the past due to massive brain drain, poor payment and lack of welfare for its slim work force.
The National President, UGONSA, Chief (Hon). Solomon E. O. Egwuenu, and its Ag. National Secretary, Nurse Philip O. Eteng, who signed a statement on behalf of the association said that such a move may be good for other sectors of the economy but certainly not for the health sector.
According to them, the period of internship is the most critical period of training of the healthcare professionals be it the nurse, the doctor, the pharmacist, or the Medical Lab Scientist. It is at this period that the foundation for practice is laid. “Toying with such programme amounts to toying with the foundation; a house built on a faulty foundation is doomed to fail”.
The statement read, “The bulks of the healthcare professionals that constitute the interns are a critical part of the healthcare workforce and fill a considerable manpower gap in the health sector.
“Removing them from the Civil Service cadre in our own assessment can never be to give an incentive to them but rather a fig tree for slashing their salaries. Our health system is already at a crossroad and needs good incentives to motivate the workforce to continue their sacrifices for the nation rather than floating a kite for slashing their already paltry salaries which are nothing when compared with what healthcare professionals earn elsewhere in the world.
“The healthcare sector is very peculiar in the sense that the lives of people are tied to it. Healthcare professionals whether interns or not are supposed to be properly taken care of such that they can concentrate all their energies and attention to taking care of others rather than being pronged by hunger and hardship which may take their attention away from their central calling which is to live their lives wholly for the health of humanity”, they stated.