The on-going strike by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) which began on April 17 is already crippling the public health sector in the country and with most of the public hospitals becoming places of death, OLAJIDE FABAMISE AND ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH, take a look at the implication of the incessant strike in the sector.
It is worrisome that strikes have suddenly taken the centre stage of the national life. While strike has been universally recognised as a tool available to the working people in their demand for a better work environment or the enhancement of their welfare, the frequency of these strikes in virtually all sectors of the nation’s socio-economic life is now posing serious threat to the economic development.
Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), President, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke with LEADERSHIP in a telephone conversation in Lagos calls for global best practice and standard that should guide the action and inaction of the government in dealing with striking workers in the health sector.
He said that there is an urgent need for the government to put all machineries in motion to quickly meet the legitimate demands of the striking health unions.
Wabba called on the federal government to urgently meet the legitimate demands of the striking workers in the health sector.
When LEADERSHIP visited some hospitals in Lagos to acertain the effect of the strike action embarked by the health workers, there were queue of patients at every units in the hospital. Some of the patients who spoke with LEADERSHIP indicated that doctors are attending to patients, but it is at a very slow pace when compared with what it used to be.
Mr Adebayo Dele, a 40 year old diabetes patient said today was his appointment to see the doctor, but unlike other days, he has been in the waiting room for close to five hours trying to see his doctor.
Dele said, “It is so unfortunate that my appointment had to be today. I came very early to see my doctor at LUTH, only for me to see a long queue of patients trying to see him. When I asked why the long queue, I was told that other health workers except doctors are on strike.
“I came here 10:00 in the morning and this is 3 o’clock and I am yet to see a doctor. I think I will have to go home and then come back tomorrow very early in the morning so I can leave on time.”
Another patient who wants to be anonymous said she regrets coming to LUTH because she just wasted all her time, without achieving the reason she came to the hospital.
She said, “Though my case isn’t an emergency case, but i would need a qualified laboratory scientist to diagnose me of what brought me to LUTH this morning. My prayer is that my case should not get worse before they call-off the strike.”
Leadership also visited the emergency unit and found out that though doctors are attending to patients, but there are still many patients to be attended to due to limited manpower.
The Public Relation Officer, LUTH, Kelechi Oduneme, while speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP said, “We are attending to patients, the doctors are on ground, you know doctors are not involved, yet we still need the efforts of other health workers for smooth operation.
“The management of LUTH has decided to work with the available manpower along with qualified medical volunteers. There are many patients still on the ward and we are managing to care for them with the limited staff we have. We are also managing emergency cases and out-patients with the limited staff.
“The management of LUTH however regrets any inconveniences the strike action would have on our patients, both in-patients and out-patients and we hope that this issue would be resolved between the ministry of health and JOHESU as soon as possible, so that Nigerians can once more enjoy quality healthcare services from all health professionals.”
The National chairman, JOHESU, comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, in a telephone conversation with our correspondent said that the strike has been on in all the federal health institutions nationwide.
Josiah said they embarked on the strike because the government has failed to fulfill the agreement both parties signed since 30th of September, 2017, an agreement that would have been fulfilled five weeks after the day they signed the agreement.
He said, “It is six months as at today and government did not see the reason to fulfill its own bargain. We also gave government 21 day ultimatum as at February this year, and they did not also seize that opportunity to do the needful so as to avert the strike action.
“We, for the sake of Nigerians, gave another ultimatum for 30 working days, yet the government did not do any tangible thing. Even when we narrowed our demand to just one which is the adjustment of COHESS for health workers, and if we can achieve that, we can then give the government sometime to fulfil other demands, which are revamping the infrastructure in the tertiary health institutions and report of the inter-ministerial sub-committee on critical matters in the health sector.
“Others are Enhancement of Entry Point (EEP) for medical laboratory scientists and Radiographers and payment of backlog of arrears.
“Even when we narrowed our demand like I said, to the implementation of adjusted CONHESS salary structure, government still fails to fulfill its own side of the bargain. So we have no other choice than to embark on the strike.”
According to the Federal Government actions on the strike, the salaries of members of the JOHESU for April have been withheld. In a letter from the FG to the health workers who are on strike over the inability of the government to meet their demands, the FG stated it has activated its “No work, No Pay” policy which sees workers not receiving their salaries for last month, April.
In the letter written and signed by the Head, Department of Hospital Services, Dr. J.O Amedu for the Minister of Health, the FG said; “You will recall that the JOHESU commenced a strike action on the midnight of Tuesday, 17th April 2018 despite all entreaties by the Government for them not to.
“In line with provision of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act CAP 18, Law of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 and the International Labour Organisation’s principles concerning employers’ right during strike in essential services, the Federal Government has invoked this Provision and is therefore enforcing “No Work, No Pay” law on Unions and Associations who decide to embark on strike without consideration of Government efforts to resolve their request. This directive is the decision of a High Level Body of Government Stakeholders chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. (SGF).
“I am directed to inform you to stop the April 2018 salary of all JOHESU workers who have defied Government by partaking in the strike. You are also directed to strictly keep the Attendance Register of all staff who is not partaking in the strike. As JOHESU workers in your institution are yet to be captured in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform, you are to implement this directive of government on your GIFMIS platform.”
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