Hard times await sick Nigerians and their relations as health workers commenced a three-day nationwide strike today.
The Chairman, Federal Council of Medical Health Workers Union, Mr. Stephen Ibe, who spoke on behalf of the workers on Tuesday in Lagos, said the industrial action this time around would be total.
According to him, the gates of all the nation’s health institutions – from the federal to the local government level – will be shut.
The action, he said, was to enable the government to attend to their eight-point demands.
Ibe noted particularly that the workers, under the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Professionals and Associations, were protesting against the non-implementation of collective bargain agreement and Memorandum of Understanding; as well as the neglect of the judgment of National Industrial Court of Nigeria by the Federal Government.
JOHESU is the umbrella body of all health care professionals, including nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists, physiotherapists and non-health workers such as attendants, cleaners and drivers.
Ibe said, “We are not going to listen to any Chief Medical Director or the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu. From the gates to the theatres, health workers will be absent. We will not offer even skeletal services in any department .Any worker that flouts this warning will be sanctioned.
“If, at the end of the three-day warning strike, government still fails to implement its agreement with us, we may be forced to commence an indefinite action immediately.
“From the security guards, ambulance drivers to the medical scientist, all of us are down tooling. We will like Nigerians to know that they cannot take their patients to any federal, state or local government hospital for now. If they do, it is only doctors that will attend to them. It is a painful decision but that is the only language the present government understands.”
The President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Dr. Godswill Okara, in Abuja on Tuesday also told one of our correspondents that the government should be blamed for the current impasse.
He said, “After an exhaustive appraisal of the outcome of the meeting with the Federal Ministry of Health last week, we have come to the painful but inevitable conclusion that there is no sign of sincerity and commitment on the part of government to address the longstanding injustices against our members.
“In the light of these acts of industrial violations, injustice and deprivations, members across the country have no other choice but to embark on a three-day warning strike with effect from Wednesday (today).”
He added that the strike was to protest the “preference shown to doctors in the nation’s public health sector”.
Okara said, “The new salary increase for doctors is now at implementation stage in most of the federal health institutions within the same month of approval. Ironically, the same FHIs have declined to pay other health workers their outstanding arrears of wages and specialist allowances for over four years now. To prevent anarchy, the government and its officials should respect agreements and implement them.”
The workers’ other grievances include the government’s failure to promote some cadre of health workers on CONHESS 14-15 as directors, in line with the approved schemes of service and non-implementation of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria judgement on appointment of other health professionals as consultants.
Other affected institutions include the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba and other health institutions in the public sector.
Already, various departments, including the medical records, blood donation and nursing sections at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, have been shut down.
Elective surgeries have also been postponed indefinitely.
Source: The Punch