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President Goodluck Jonathan has agreed to meet the demands of the Nigeria Medical Association in order to avert an industrial action scheduled to commence on January 6.

One of the major demands of the NMA that Jonathan has agreed to meet is the appointment of a Surgeon-General of the Federation.

He has also agreed that the call duty allowance of the doctors running into billions of naira could be sorted out.

These were parts of the decisions reached at the end of the fourth meeting called by the President on Thursday to avert the strike.

A source, who pleaded anonymity, told journalists at the end of the meeting held inside the Presidential Villa in Abuja, that government had decided to yield to the NMA by appointing a Surgeon-General of the Federation who would be a medical doctor.

He said based on the demand of the association, the appointee would oversee public health sector.

“The government has taken a decision to appoint a Surgeon-General of the Federation who will be a medical doctor and will be responsible for public health. That appointment will be announced soon,” the source said.

The source added that the President had directed the Federal Ministry of Health to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment in order to consult with medical practitioners to support private investors to build state-of-the-art hospitals in the country.

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He said Jonathan had also directed that henceforth, before any government official would be allowed to travel abroad for medicals, government must first be satisfied that no such medical services existed in Nigeria.

He added that the President had agreed to look more into the National Health Insurance Scheme to make it more productive.

On the doctors’ request for the inclusion of their representatives in the proposed national dialogue, the government was said to have observed that there was no way a conference of such magnitude would hold without the representatives of trade unions.

It will be recalled that the government had since met another demand by the NMA by re-constituting the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

The Thursday meeting presided over by Jonathan was attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo; Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State; Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu; Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; Director-General of Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu; and the Chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Chief Richard Egbule, among others.

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In an interview with State House correspondents, Uduaghan said President Jonathan conceded to the doctors’ demand because government could not afford another strike in the health sector.

He said, “There are issues that have been raised by the NMA for which they have threatened to go on strike.

“They had a warning strike for about five days, so the President called a stakeholders’ meeting to look at the issues.

“We are going for a meeting now (5pm) with the NMA. At least, there are some things the President has consented to and I believe by the time we finish the meeting this evening (on Thursday), there will be some resolutions.

“Our determination is to ensure that that strike of January 6 is averted. Of course we cannot afford another strike in the medical sector. One minute of strike in the health sector by whatever body can be very disastrous.”

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