Medical interns of the University Of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH have staged a protest on Monday over the nonpayment of their 11 months' salaries.

The interns who put on white laboratory coats displayed placards and banners with different inscriptions, such as "University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, 11 months without internship salary', Prof. Ikpeme A. Ikpeme, end this salary injustice now!!!' 'We are hungry, we are frustrated, our rents are expired,' 'Pay Interns salary from November 2020 - September 2021.'"

They sang as they marched towards the Government House in Calabar.

In a video obtained by SaharaReporters, the protesters are seen gathered in front of Cross Rivers Government House in Calabar. A voice in the video asserted that this was the eleventh month and they are yet to boast of a full month's salaries. 

The voice noted that feeding had become a problem for them, stressing that a good number of them had developed ulcers during the programme.

"We are at the Government House of Cross River State now, this is the situation going on here. The Interns of the University of Calabar teaching hospital pouring out their voices, making their voices known concerning the issue going on there.

"This is the 11th month now and they are yet to boast of a complete month's salary. They have really suffered, feeding has become a problem. A good number of them have developed ulcers during the programme. Some of them are now homeless because of the situation.

"Government, please pay us, we have suffered, we have tried. The lives of a good number of us are under threat because we cannot pay back the money we borrowed. We cannot even pay back the money we borrowed to feed to survive, we cannot pay back anymore.

"Government please come to our aid, we have suffered, we have been working and this is the 11 months and yet the hospital management has not paid us our salary. Government, please come to our aid, we are suffering, we are crying," he stated.

SaharaReporters had earlier reported that the leaders of the interns planning the protest were invited on Sunday by the Department of State Services (DSS) over the planned protest.

The medical interns accused the hospital management of owing them 11 months' salaries out of 12 months, which is the duration of the programme. 

The programme started on October 22, 2020, and December 1, 2020, for the first and second batches respectively. 

The interns said whenever they engage with the hospital management to discuss the non-payment of their salaries, they are threatened. 

Country Director, Citizens' Solution Network, Richard Friday Imoyo had posted on Facebook that indeed the representatives of the interns were invited by the Department of State Services (DSS) on Sunday for questioning regarding their planned protest. 

He wrote in part, "DSS has invited the leaders of interns in the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital to their office for 3 pm today (Sunday) over the interns' planned protest against the refusal of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital to pay them their 11 months' salaries that run into half a billion naira.

"What these interns need are their 11 months' salaries and nothing more. The management should stop the intimidation, using DSS, and pay these interns.

"Those invited were Delphine Anusi, Nwogu Michael, Uneze Ibeakalam, and Atrogor Shadrack."

Atrogor Shadrack, one of those invited by the DSS, who later spoke to SaharaReporters said they were not intimidated by the DSS, but rather had a "fruitful discussion". 

"I was invited by DSS, we had a fruitful discussion and they said they are with us," he said. 

It was learnt that the Chief Medical Director (CMD) had issued all interns with appointment letters which they all accepted. 

They were required to pay N30,000.00 each to the hospital management.

The interns are from various departments including Pharmacy, 38; Nursing Science, 70; Optometry, 21; Dental Therapy, 29; Dental Technology, 38; Medical Laboratory Science, 130 and Radiography, 26.

According to their appointment letters, each intern is placed on a minimum salary of N135,000.00 each per month which amounts to N47,520,000.00 in all per month. 

However, in a memo obtained by SaharaReporters dated 2 August, 2021 with Ref: UCTH/DA/148/3090, the hospital management suspended the programme for one month.

The memo titled, 'Suspension of Internship Programme,' was signed by the Director of Administration, Ededet Eyoma on behalf of the Chief Medical Director.

The memo reads;

"I am directed to inform the Hospital Community that the Internship Programme of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital has been suspended for one month with effect from 2 August, 2021.

"This is consequent upon the security challenges experienced in recent times, occasioned by the activities of the current interns. The suspension follows a meeting of Management with the managers of the Internship Programme held on 2 August, 2021, and the approval of the Governing Board of the Hospital.

"The suspension will enable Management to evaluate the situation with a view to finding lasting solutions to the issues involved. Management hopes that normalcy will return within the shortest possible time. Heads of Departments are hereby directed to ensure compliance, please.

"In view of the above, security agencies have been engaged to ensure that no intern is found in the Hospital until the suspension is lifted."

The memo indicated that the interns were placed on a month suspension which has sadly turned out to be two months suspension now (August - September) simply because they asked for their payment.

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