Abia govt snubs doctors protesting 24-month salary arrears
By Our Reporter
Doctors protesting 24 months of salary arrears were Thursday, snubbed by the Abia State Government as no Government official came to receive or address them at the entrance gate to the Government House Umuahia where they had congregated to register their grievances.
Wawa News Global reports that the visibly agitated doctors who stormed the Government House in their numbers were protesting 24-month salary arrears owed medical and non medical staff of Abia State University Teaching Hospital Aba, ABSUTH.
They were also protesting 13 months arrears owed doctors and other staff of Health Management Board.
The doctors decked in their Ward Coats had assembled at the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia before proceeding to the Government House Gate, chanting solidarity songs as they marched on the road.
They also carried placards with different inscriptions such as:”Doctors lives matter”;”Our salary is our entitlement”; “2 years without salary ‘no be jokes'”; ” Man’s inhumanity to man”, among others.
Leader of the protesters and Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Abia State chapter, Dr Isaiah Abali, while addressing newsmen, said doctors in the employ of the State Government were passing through hell following many months of unpaid wages.
He decried the condition of the affected doctors many of whom he said, “no longer meet their daily needs”.
Dr Abali who expressed sadness over Government’s inability to clear the backlog of salary arrears of doctors, prayed God to judge anybody playing politics with the welfare of doctors.
He said that the protest had no political undertones whatsoever, and asked Government to stop giving excuses but clear the outstanding arrears.
Speaking earlier, NMA Secretary, Dr Daniel Ekeleme, narrated the bitter experiences of some doctors in the hands of their landlord following their inability to renew their house rents.
” Land lords no longer accept Abia doctors because we can’t pay house rent any more. Some of us can no longer pay our children ‘s school fees. Feeding has become a big challenge now, all because Abia State Government has refused to pay us.
” Abia doctors are the least paid in the country. Out of the 36 states, Abia is the only state where doctors are owed for years.
” We have begged, we have made appeals but they fell on deaf ears; now we are here so the world can hear us. Doctors are dying in Abia. Next time we will come with the bodies of some of our members who have died as a result of hardship. Is it a curse to be a doctor in Abia?”
Adding her voice, a Consultant Hematologist at ABSUTH, Dr Chika Uche, said it was wickedness for Government which “receives allocation every month” to pay political office holders with jumbo allowances but owe workers who earn peanuts.
She noted that some of the staff members of the affected institutions include cleaners and other non-medical staff with meagre pay.
The Consultant Hematologist described the adamancy of Government to the plight of doctors as cruelty and the height of insensitivity.
This was not the first time doctors were embarking on protest over unpaid wages.
They, had last year, threatened to cripple the entire health sector if Government failed to clear the backlog of salary arrears but despite the threats Government has remained adamant.
ABSUTH has since lost accreditation to admit new medical students following dilapidation of facilities at the institution as a result of strike by the unpaid workers.
Things have not been the best in many sectors of the state under the current Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration.
Apart from doctors, teachers and staff of some parastatals have also been demanding to be paid arrears of salaries.
Pensioners are not left out as they have almost become tired of protesting payment of gratuities and pension arrears.
It is hoped that the new administration will clean up the mess in the state if the people are lucky to make the right choice.
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