Succor may soon come for states owing doctors’ salaries, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara hinted yesterday.
The Speaker said that President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to bailout the debtor-states to enable them fulfil their obligations s to doctors.
Dogara spoke while hosting the representatives of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD), who visited him in National Assembly office.
According to him, the gesture was in recognition of government’s responsibility to ensure the overall welfare of all citizens.
He was updating the doctors on the outcome of their request for improved welfare of doctors in state teaching hospitals.
The speaker identified access to healthcare as one of the major concerns of the President Buhari-led Federal Government.
Dogara said: “For us, the welfare of our citizens is the number one priority of government. When we talk about welfare, you have to be healthy first before you can pursue any other thing.
“Whether you are in school, whether you are in a religious organisation, whatever you do in contributing to the work of democracy, if you are not healthy, you can’t do that work. So, health comes before any other thing.
“There is no nation that will be healthier than the general health of its citizens and so, this is a priority. And as a responsible government which has pride itself on grassroots support, we will have to ensure that our base in the grassroots are well taken care of.
“For us to do that, we obviously have to take care of the doctors, who are sacrificing so much in order to bring succour to the people.”
Reacting to the doctors’ demand for more funding for the health sector, Dogara said though yearly budgets show an increase in figures, “the value of the money has fallen, meaning, there isn’t enough to fund all projects of government.”
He went on: “Doctors should be innovative to attract medical tourists to Nigeria and save money from people who patronise hospitals abroad, adding that the present government is focused on providing infrastructure that will stimulate growth in all sectors of the country, leading to more economic activities and improved revenue for government to deploy for development.”
The speaker also noted that the bill seeking for a Cancer Fund to support treatment of indigent citizens is in the legislative mill and will soon be passed by the National Assembly.
Some of the requests made by NARD include: improved welfare for doctors in state teaching hospitals; improved funding for health sector; passage of the Residency Bill as well as funding; establishment of a Cancer Care Fund; provision of adequate facilities; equipment in the medical field; funding of exchange programmes for doctors and thorough oversight by the relevant National Assembly committees to ensure that funds released for equipment of hospitals are appropriately utilised.
NARD’s President, Dr. Chinaka Ugochukwu thanked the Speaker for his intervention in the strike action by doctors in 2016 and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) drawn from their meeting with him.
Ugochukwu said the MoU formed the basis of their negotiations with the executive, with about 90 per cent of what was captured in it been implemented by government.
The speaker, he said, should use his good offices to promote the welfare of doctors in the country, while notifying him of his selection as an ambassador of doctors in the country.