The Bayelsa Government has indicated its readiness to pay special allowances to frontline health workers combating the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
Mr Doubara Atasi, the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Deputy Governor, stated this in a statement on Wednesday.
It would be recalled that Gov. Douye Diri, had given the assurance to pay the allowances on Tuesday.
He said it at a meeting with the representatives of the labour unions including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Association of Resident Doctors in Government House, Yenagoa.
Other unions represented at the meeting include: the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria.
The governor, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, reassured the health workers of the administration’s commitment to give priority to their welfare and other challenges affecting healthcare delivery in the state.
He said that the government was prepared to pay the COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances effective from April 2020 when the state recorded its index case.
Diri, however, said that the state was not having the financial capacity to adopt the Federal Government’s template for implementing the payment due to the steady decline in its revenues.
On the issue of skipping for medical doctors, Diri assured them that the government would implement the policy as soon as the modalities were worked out by the committee handling it.
He, therefore, urged the labour unions to show understanding by prevailing on their members to accept the well-considered position of the state government.
He said: “Health issues will never be at the tail end of this administration’s programme. Rather, they will occupy the front burner and a very prominent place as far as we are concerned.
“Our team has had useful discussions with yours. Our position which we are appealing to you seriously to consider is that, we will pay only the frontline health workers who are directly engaged in the COVID-19 response.
“And our position is not in isolation. It is a position we know quite some states are working on. The Federal Government can afford to do anything because it has less responsibility but more money.
“On skipping, the Head of Service, Hospital Management Board, the Ministry of Health and officials of the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital are working hard to get the final figures.
“We take it seriously because we believe that our doctors should not be treated differently from other doctors in the country,” he said.
Earlier, the State Chairman of NMA, Dr Peter Alabrah and Dr Oru Inetsol who is the President, Association of Resident Doctors, Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital Okolobiri Chapter, urged government to pay the special allowances to all health workers in the state.
Also, the Head of Service, Mrs Biobelemoye Charles-Onyema and the Technical Adviser on Treasury, Accounts and Revenue, Mr Timipre Seipulou, called on the unions to come up with more feasible options for government to consider at the next meeting within the week.
The statement added that others who made contributions include the Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Governor’s Office, Mr Alex Dumbo, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Inodu Apoku and the Chief Medical Director, NDUTH, Prof Dimie Ogoin.