In spite of sacking over 700 doctors in its employ, the Lagos State Government has expressed willingness to resume negotiations with the affected doctors.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, the Health Commissioner, Jide Idris, said that “government is still available for negotiation.”

“The issue of negotiation has not been fore-closed; when they are willing, we are willing to dialogue with them, but our first priority is to restore services to the health sector,” he said.

However, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba, added that the affected doctors “should go back and satisfy administrative issues involved since they were given queries by their boss (state government).”

By implication, the doctors are expected to respond to queries earlier issued to them and be willing to go back to work.

On Monday, the state government made a bold but controversial move of sacking 788 striking doctors in its employ.

A statement signed by the state’s Head of Service, explained that the doctors were sacked for their failure to respond to queries earlier issued to them.

They did not respond to the queries which demanded an explanation for a three-day warning strike embarked on by the doctors from April 11 to April 13.

Afterwards, the doctors declared an indefinite strike, saying they felt intimidated by the presence of heavily armed police officers at the Health Service Commission office, Lagos island, seat of the disciplinary committee attending to the queries.

The doctors were pressing for the full implementation of an improved salary package called the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS).

Since the sacking of the doctors, different figures have been brandished by the doctors and the government.

While the doctors claimed that over 1,000 doctors were affected by the sack, the state government claimed it sacked 788 doctors.

Clarifying the issue, Ibirogba refuted claims that the sacking of the doctors has grounded activities at state-owned hospitals.

“We still have 1,059 doctors in our hospitals. Before we sacked 788 doctors, we had 1,474 doctors, but we have already employed 373 new doctors, who have already been screened,” he said.

Ibirogba added that the state government’s decision was necessary to “call the bluff of the doctors”.

“If they say that Lagos State is not paying and another is paying, you have the right to leave and go to that state. This is the system we have in place and if you are not okay by the system, go to another system and leave this system for us,” he said.

Reacting to a threat by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to sanction doctors that take up new appointments in the state, Idris claimed it was a baseless threat to “instill fear in the newly employed doctors.”

Idris said the association lacks the power to revoke doctors’ licences, adding that more doctors have shown interest in working for the state government.

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