By Abdulrasheed Akogun
If information at the disposal of Fresh Insight is anything to go by, then all seem not to be well between the front line health workers taking care of COVID-19 patients at the Kwara State Isolation Centre and the Ministry of Health in the State.
According to findings by Fresh Insight, the bone of contention is the payment disparity, monthly deduction and reduction of hazard allowances of the front line workers without any official communication.
According to insider sources, no fewer than 10 medical doctors, two nurses and five support health practitioners drawn from the Nigerian Red Cross society are affected in the payment disparity which had been on since the commencement of the assignment.
It would be recalled the State Governor, Mallam AbdulRahmen AbdulRazaq, had approved a daily hazard allowance of N25,000 for the workers, making a total of N750,000 monthly payable to the medical doctors while, Nurses and others are entitled to N15,000 and N10,000 daily respectively.
Speaking with Fresh Insight under condition of anonymity, a front line health worker said, “When we received our first payment on May 5th, 2020 which was the hazard allowance for the month of April, only two medical doctors got full payment of N750,000, others got between N375,000 and N450,000 each without any explanation for the disparity.
“The payment for the month of May came in on June 25th, 2020 with the same disparity to different doctors, while the number of those who received higher than others dropped, some who received lower amount also rose, without any explanation once again.
” The same incident which by this time we had started suspecting a foul play repeated itself when payment for June allowance was made on July 29th.
“Upon receipt of the 4th payment on September 8th, which was supposed to be our hazard allowance for the month of July, the alert read August, thereby tactically foreclosing the payment of July allowance.
” All the doctors held a meeting with the Chairman Medical Advisory committee Dr. Femi Oladiji on the 10th of September at the Isolation centre canteen, he gave an excuse that it was a mistake from the bank and truly those who received alert the following month read July and we accepted that it was truly an oversight.
“To our dismay, the next payment received on October 16th, which was supposed to read, August hazard allowance was left untitled and therefore depriving us the opportunity of knowing for which month it was meant for.
“In that light, we concluded that something was fishy and if care is not taken, our July allowance might never be paid again.
” We know the Governor means well for us, but we strongly suspect that clog in the wheels of progress is the Ministry that seems to be doing everything humanly possible to sabotage the exercise through their greed”, he alleged.
Confirming the development, Fresh Insight investigation showed that 2 medical Assistants and 1 cleaner received no pay for the first month of April, which payment was made in the first week of May, even when they worked for the pay and they’re yet to be paid till date.
The affected workers include Afolayan Taiye (Red Vross), Saka Moshood (Red Cross) Jimoh Fatimoh (attendant)
Further investigation by Fresh Insight showed that the front line workers are divided into three;
Contact tracing, and
Fresh Insight investigation showed that after the second payment made in June, we noticed disparity in the amount paid to those dozing contact tracing and the case management, they were now paying them #400,000 each as against #750,000.
During the 3rd payment, 3 doctors, Dr. Alatishe, Dr. Tijjani and Dr. Amigun from the UITH who also volunteered had their allowances slashed without any official explanation given.
Dr. Alatishe who although is a State Government Staff but currently on training with the UITH on study leave, while the two remaining affected doctors are full staff of the UITH.
The trio complained to the Ministry and their money was reversed to the previous amount they’ve been receiving after the 4th month.
While Dr. Alatishe had his outstanding allowance summed up to the next allowance and paid while the two remaining didn’t receive the outstanding.
It was also discovered that while the Nurses who were hitherto on #75,000 monthly received #325,000 in September, attendants who were going home with #12,500 was jacked up to #75,000.
In the same vein from June, the Red Cross guys had their allowances slashed to 35,000 from 70,000, after several agitations however, they had it increased to 50,000 recently.
Debunking the allegations, the press secretary of the Kwara Ministry of Health, Gbenga Falade denied any sharp practices, stressing that the Covid 19 exercise is gradually winding down and that justifies the reducing payment.
He said “The monthly payment of allowances is stable, but the figures are no longer constant. What is true is the gradual winding down of Covid-19 pandemic especially in Nigeria. Kwara State is no exception. There is reduction in workload in some stations. For example, the Medical Advisory sub-committee has two broad stations in charge of the COVID-19 management
(i) Covid-19/Infectious Disease Centre at Sobi, Ilorin
(ii) Ministry of Health at Fate Ilorin.
” Each station has different functions and are both working harmoniously to fight the pandemic. For instance, at Sobi, there are three units of service (a) The Case Management Team in charge of patient welfare and treatment (b)The GeneXpert Laboratory in charge of carrying out laboratory tests on all samples collected throughout the State (c) The Holding Area where voluntary sampling and referral samples are collected.
“Indeed, with the new NCDC case management protocol which allows asymptomatic patients to be managed in their homes with follow ups from COVID-19 committee, we seldom have cases at the isolation centre, leading to reduced workload in thr recent time. Nonetheless, our team of Doctors, Nurses and attendants are on standby for emergency preparedness and response. The laboratory personnel are also working in full as there are incoming samples from the holding area to be tested on daily bases. All these factors led to reasonable, downward review of allowances.
“Similarly, at the Ministry of Health there are nine pillars of service to combat the pandemic: (a) Infection and Prevention Control Team; (b) Decontamination Team;
(c) Burial Team; (d) Call Centre and Rumour Management Team; (e) Risk Communication Team; (f) Logistics team; (g) Surveillance team; (h) Data Management Team and (i) Contact Tracing Team. As stated above, workload has apparently reduced drastically in many of the pillars since September, which warranted further downward and reasonable review of allowances. However, all the health and allied workers have been duly informed of these developments.
“Secondly, it is not true that allowances were last paid in July. July allowances have been duly paid to all the workers. August allowances are currently being paid, although in phases owing to the policy of the bank disbursing the payment which stipulates only a few individuals can be paid on daily basis. The delay therefore was not because of government’s non-release of funds. The delay is alsp due to the recent crisis in the State related to Labour Union strike action, End SARS protest and public holiday. That again is known to everyone involved. Payment for the month of September 2020 has also since been approved, while October is in the works” he stressed.