By Buba Gagigo
The Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers (APEHOG) proposed to embark on an industrial action on 5th April 2022, if their allowance demand is not implemented.
The association demands its membership to be included in the new allowance package that the government approved for PhD holders and medical doctors serving the Ministry of Health.
“The executive and the entire membership are strongly concerned with the long silence of the PMO upon receipt of the requested information from HR, MoH. While we all provide the same services to the population, we might seem to have been seen differently and treated differently than our sister cadres, which the General Orders and civil services code of conduct does not support. The general membership of the Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers have agreed that as an association with mass representation in the Ministry of Health, we strongly recommend that the allowance issue be solved before the 5th April 2022. Contrary to meeting [the] demands by the aforesaid date, Public Health Officers across the country will lay down their tools,” the association said in a statement.
The Vice President of APEHOG, Musa Nget explained the various steps his association has taken before reaching such a conclusion.
“In early 2021, the Ministry of Health proposed to create a specific allowance for the Health Minister, PhD holders and Medical doctors serving the Ministry of Health. This we believe was very discriminatory and had caused unprecedented chaos not only within the public health cadre but within the entire ministry of Health. The decision came as a shock to the cadre and since then a host of avenues have been explored for the inclusion of other cadres into the new allowance scheme,” he said.
Mr. Nget said his association first wrote a letter to the Secretary General & Head of Civil Service on 2nd March 2021 and demanded the government to: immediately suspend /reverse the decision on the recent approval of allowances for few selected individuals which is discriminatory and unfair to the hard-working Directors, Program Managers, Program Officers, Health Facility staff and front liners; use the allowance proposed to initiate the appointment of health labourers, watchmen, orderlies across the country as soon as possible as some are volunteers for over 2 years without salary; and initiate a review of allowance increment for all cadres in the Ministry of Health.
He added that after several consultations, they wrote another letter to the same office on 28th September 2021.
Nget continued that the Principal Secretary at the ministry of health on behalf of the permanent secretary PMO wrote to him (Vice President of the Association) claiming that the ministry is ‘seriously’ working on paying equal allowance to that cadre and calculation already done”.
The Vice President expressed disappointment that no Public Health Officer within the country benefits from the said allowance after five months since receipt of the above letter.
Mr Nget recalled that after the above engagements, the mandate of the previous executive of APEHOG ended but a new executive was elected in January 2022; which on 8th February, 2022, paid a courtesy call on the Director of Public Health Services (DPHS) and discussed with him many issues affecting Public Health Officers as well as the services they provide to the public who also told them that he ‘is working to resolve the problem’.
The APEHOG Vice President said in a similar but a different meeting on 25th February 2022, his association met with the PS MoH to introduce the new executive and moreover discussed matters affecting the Public Health cadre as well as the newly established Public Health Council.
“Among the issues discussed included an office space for the Public Health Council and the exclusion of Public and Environmental Health Officers from the MoH allowance scheme. Response received from PS, MOH, indicated that, Director of Public Health Services and Director HR-MoH and himself, had a meeting with the PS-PMO for the allocation of similar allowance to other cadres within the MOH.
“They were tasked by the PS-PMO to present to the PMO the nominal staff role of the various cadres in order to do the adjustment for the entire remaining cadres. This task is given to the Director of Human Resource MoH to quickly work on the task. The President of the association was advised to make follow-up with the HR, MoH to make sure this task is completed soonest,” he narrated.
After making follow-ups with the Director of the Human Resource for Health, Director HR – MoH said the requested information was duly sent to PMO for onward review and action, further narrated.
The Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers (APEHOG) is a registered non-Profitable association in existence since 1971, serving the health professionals specifically and communities in general, with its membership serving in both the private and government health institutions across the country.
Among others, they are responsible for surveillance and disease control, including contact tracing, especially during the peak period of Covid-19.