UCTH forces interns to pay N30,000 for appointment letter, owes them 11 months’ salaries

Despite collecting N30,000 for appointment letters, the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) is owing over 350 workers 11 months’ salaries, say interns at the institution.

According to Gazette, the school demanded the interns pay N30,000 before they were issued appointment letters. Receipt of payments by several interns in December 2020, as seen by The Gazette, showed the money was for collecting the “offer of appointment” letter was paid into the hospital’s account at Ekondo Microfinance bank with account number 1100757926.

“Life has been very difficult for me since the University refused to pay us. As I am talking to you now, I am sick of chronic ulcer,” one of the interns said. “I have borrowed up to N600,000, which until now, I am hiding from those I borrowed money due to threats to my life.” Interns owed by the hospital include pharmacists, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, optometrists, radiographers, dental therapists, dental technologists and physiotherapists.

“I have to allow up to five of my friends to stay in my apartment because most of them could not pay their house rent and were driven out by their landlords,” stated another intern. “I happened to be the breadwinner in my family, and my dad is sick. I thought the salaries would come to treat my dad, but unfortunately, it is not coming.”

On April 30, the director queried the interns for protesting the non-payment of their salaries and, on August 1, suspended the interns for one month over a protest for their salaries.

At the expiration of the suspension, the institution refused to let the interns resume work. They were told the governing board had not sat, and as such, their suspension remained, an intern told The Gazette on Wednesday.

The appointment letter seen by The Gazette shows that each intern will receive N1.5 million per annum and is not allowed to do any other job or business but work 24-hours in the hospital. However, the chairman of the Joint Health Sector of the hospital, Icha Bassey, claimed that the non-payment resulted from a reduction of allocation to the hospital by the federal government.

“The hospital was receiving N144 million, but now we received N6.5 million, which made it difficult for management to pay the salaries at a go,” said Mr Bassey explained to The Gazette. “But, with that N6.5 million, management was able to settle the interns even though the money paid was not up to the amount of their monthly salaries.”

According to him, a previous set of interns had over 400 interns, “and they don’t have any issue except this batch of 352, which we thought we could pay considering the last batch had more numbers, but the money wasn’t coming as thought.”

When asked why the institution forced the interns to pay N30,000 to collect appointment letters, Mr Bassey claimed the money was “for their medical check-up and not for appointment letter.” “But, they (the hospital) didn’t tell us until almost everyone had paid the money,” he added. “In our letter, we told the management to review the price, which they did, and it has now been brought down to N15,000.”

The hospital management denied any wrongdoing in a statement made available to The Gazette on Thursday in response to the allegation. The statement by the Chief Medical Director, Ikpeme Ikpeme, blamed the non-payment of interns’ salaries on the shortfall of the non-personnel allocation in 2021.

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