In reaction to the allegations raised by Lagos State employed doctors under the auspices of the Medical Guild, the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has disclosed that the delay experienced on payment of two months hazard allowance was due to ongoing enumeration of health workers that was aimed at ensuring each staff gets their due allowance.
Sanwo-Olu stated that before the health workers embarked on a three-day warning strike, a large percentage of the doctors have received their two months hazard allowance which the government increased earlier by 400 percent as compensation for the services they rendered to the state.
According to him, with the payments made, I want to urge the doctors to resume to work and whatever the issues are, we will sort it out, embarking on strike will not solve the issues raised.
Sanwo-Olu, who made the call on Tuesday at a news briefing held at the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital while addressing issues raised by the striking doctors, hinted that to appreciate health workers, over 1000 frontline health workers in the COVID-19 response got additional incentives called the COVID-19 allowance and that this did not affect their regular salary and hazard allowance.
“We actually pay people allowances that are twice their monthly salary to boost their morale and we are the first in the country to do that, we are doing that because we are the epicentre of the pandemic and Lagos needed to show leadership, and prove to our people that we are concerned and committed to our health workers welfare.
“We had a two-month delay because we wanted to make sure the right people their dues because it is a lot of money. As I speak, most of them if not all of them have gotten their allowance for the two-month arrears. And what we have paid is more and in some instances twice what the Federal Government is paying”, he said.
Addressing the issues of heavy taxation, another issue raised by the doctors, Sanwo-Olu hinted that a meeting has been scheduled with officials of Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) to explore ways of reviewing the tax burden.
While addressing dearth of health workers, the governor said he has approved employment of over 760 health workers including 400 doctors, saying, the pandemic forced the state government to adjust the recruitment procedure, but the process is ongoing and the first batch of recruitment would be concluded soon.
“We have given approval for recruitment of 760 health workers of which 400 are doctors alone. Even the capacity to identify the 400 doctors is also a challenge and that process has started. It is only the health workers and teachers that have that standing rule to replace upon retirement. I have given approval and the process has started with the health service commission”, He said.
Addressing the issue of doctors’ quarters, Sanwo-Olu explained that the state was already in partnership with some reputable organizations to erect the quarters at the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and at some selected centres.
According to him, the process has commenced while a new strategic policy to increase and improve housing across all state Secondary Healthcare Facilities have also been developed.
Speaking on the issue of Health workers being unceremoniously dismissed from the isolation centres, the Governor stated that no health worker in the COVID-19 response has dismissed, rather they have rotated
He noted that health workers, engaged to offer care at the isolation facilities, were only being rotated to reduce fatigue and burn out as well as build capacity for treatment of COVID-19 across the health workforce.
“We realize that people are getting tired, a lot of health workers and doctors have had to work back to back over this period and fatigue was setting in and we said that let us do a change. Initially, we just wanted to a small team, we took the challenge and we felt that we needed to retool them re-energize them, take the ones that have worked here for three months back to their regular work where they would be paid their hazard allowances and bring fresh doctors that are in the hospital here to come and work”, Sanwo-Olu explained.
While noting that the grievances of the doctors may have resulted from a gap in communication, the Governor said that state as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the nation has gone beyond its duty of care to make sure the welfare of the health workers remains a top priority.
He noted that apart from the measures enumerated above, the State government has also dedicated an isolation center at Agidingbi in Ikeja for frontline health workers who test positive COVID-19.
The governor, who hinted that one day in every week was already allocated for testing healthcare professionals, stressed that emergency testing of health workers could be arranged by a call to the officer in charge of health worker testing.
“From the beginning of COVID-19 we have accommodated all frontline health workers in hotels at great cost and provided three meals a day and transportation to and from the hotel. All frontline health workers in isolation centres have also been insured by a consortium of insurance companies. All Lagos State civil servants including all health workers have been insured by LASACO. This represents double insurance over and above standard civil service insurance”, Sanwo-Olu said.