Kaduna State commissioner of heath, Amina Mohammed Baloni, on Monday (Monday, June 1, 2020) ordered medical directors (MDs) of all state general hospitals to report to the ministry of health in the morning, while asking them to hand over the mantle of leadership to the next most senior person in their various hospitals.
This instruction has created panic in the state’s healthcare service system, sparking speculations of impending suspension and perhaps even eventual sack of the MDs, as the governor comes down hard on the state’s healthcare providers as a result of their resilience in resisting his ‘illegal’ slash of 25% of their salaries.
The healthcare providers had gone on a week-long warning strike after the governor had threatened to sack anyone who downtools in protest, a move that sources close to the governor said he considered as a slap on his face.
“His Excellency was furious for been dared by the health workers. He never expected such brazen disobedience to his orders”, a state executive council member told Judicial Sketch.
The governor, who was said to have been confident that he could break the strike action through some ‘divide-and-rule’ measures, was disappointed when he met with stiff resistance from all angles, as the warning strike was so successful that, apart from gate men, no single healthcare (HCW) worker went to work.
“That warning strike was really successful. No doctor, nurse, lab technician or even cleaner went to work. The hospitals were like ghost lands”, a member of the National Association of Pharmaceutical Technologists of Nigeria said.
Even the usual government directives that senior officers should go to work during strikes to render skeletal services did not fly, and the state health commissioner wrote a letter on May 29, 2020 to all medical directors to query the refusal of officers on grade level 14 and above to go to work.
The letter, with reference number MOH/ADM/230/VOL.T/8, also demanded to know why notices were not issued by the MDs to intimate their senior staff not to join the strike action, just as she was surprised that they did not keep “staff attendance register for daily signature” and submit said register to the ministry as they were ordered to.
Her letter concluded by saying “The aforementioned are clear act of insubordination and disregard to my directives ……”
The commissioner’s letter of May 29, 2020, was followed by another on May 30, 2020, with reference number MOH/ADM/230/VOL.T/9 also addressed to all MDs to inform them of the dissolution of Medical Directors’ Forum (MDF), a group created by the MDs for the purpose of consultations among them.
The commissioner justified the dissolution by saying “… the aim and motive behind the formation of the Medical Director’s (sic) Forum is practically defeated as some of its actions are counteractive to administrative guidelines.”
She therefore dropped the hammer by saying in her letter that “In view of the foregoing, the Medical Directors’ Forum is hereby dissolved with immediate effect and all Medical Directors are to respect the administrative line of communication by reporting to the Director Medical Services of the Ministry of Heath, please.”
A member of the Medical and Dental Council Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) told Judicial Sketch that “These are interesting times in Kaduna State. I don’t even know if the government has the powers to just wake up and dissolve a group without recourse to any court order. The government is really frustrated but has remained arrogant, and the HCW have remained unbending. In between, I think there was a matter of rights and obligations. I also think an illegality may have been committed. All these must be sorted out to resolve this impasse.”
The HCW’s Joint Action Committee said it was waiting to hear what the outcome of the MD’s meeting with the commissioner would be before it decides what action to take next.