Court restrains Fed Govt from sacking doctors

By Precious Igbonwelundu
In Nigeria
Aug 25th, 2014
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The National Industrial Court restrained the Federal Government yesterday from terminating the appointment of over 15,000 resident doctors.

The court restrained the Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) of 37 medical institutions across the country from sacking the suspended doctors.

President Goodluck Jonathan, last week, in a memorandum through the Federal Ministry of Health, ordered the indefinite suspension of resident doctors and the employment of contract doctors for a renewable six-month period.

But the registered trustee of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), in a Motion on Notice filed before Justice Babatunde Adejumon against the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Minister of Health, the 37 CMDs of university teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres, challenged the government’s action.

In his ruling, Justice Adejumon ordered that a status quo ante be maintained, pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed by the resident doctors. This means the doctors would also have to call off their strike and both parties return to the state at which things were before the strike.

On the suspension of training programmes for doctors, the court directed the claimant (the NMA) to put all the respondents on notice.

It said the issue would be better addressed when both parties joined issues before the court.

“On the second prayer (termination of appointment), it is the order of the court that since there is yet to be proof that the order has been carried out, the third to 39th respondents (Chief Medical Directors) are hereby restrained either by themselves, agents, privies or any other person from serving member of the Registered Trustee of the Nigerian Medical Association with any letter of termination if same had not been served on them before today (August 25, 2014),” the court ruled yesterday.

The resident doctors, in a Motion on Notice dated August 18, filed by their lawyer, Alex Akoja, brought pursuant to Order 14 Rule 1(1, 2and3) of the National Industrial Court Civil Procedure Rule, 2007, sought for an order restraining the respondents or their privies from executing or giving effect to the directive contained in the letter of August 13, suspending the Residency Training Programme for doctors, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

Besides, the resident doctors prayed the court for an interim injunction restraining the respondent, especially the CMDs of teaching hospitals across the country, from issuing letters of termination of residency training appointment to resident doctors.

In a 19-paragraph affidavit of urgency deposed to by Dr. Adewunmi Alayaki, the doctors averred that over 10 years ago, the claimant (NMA) has had several face-offs with the Federal Government on government’s failure to develop health care delivery system in line with global yearnings, poor work package and environments of medical practitioners in the country.

The claimant said it was surprised to see a letter, dated August 13, purportedly suspending the residency programmes for doctors.

The doctors added that a prototype letter of termination of employment of resident doctors was further forced on the third to 39 respondents (CMDs).

They said the letter was issued without the approval of the National Assembly and consultations with statutory bodies established to manage the residency programme.

The claimant added that if the respondents were not retained, it would affect and cause fundamental damages to the health care industry.

The matter was adjourned till September 17 for hearing of the Motion on Notice.

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