Health workers’ strike paralyses medical services

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The ongoing strike by Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) in the country has paralysed medical services in federal health institutions nationwide.

A report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) says the industrial action is biting hard on patients and their relations as it enters its second day.

To cushion the effect of the strike on patients, the Management of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi, has engaged the services of doctors, NYSC members and casual staff to replace the striking staff.

Minister-Health-Professor-Isaac-Adewole
Minister-Health-Professor-Isaac-Adewole
Empty hospitals caused by health workers' strike
Empty hospitals caused by health workers’ strike
Pregnant women being counselled outside
Pregnant women being counselled outside

The Chief Medical Director of ATBUTH, Dr Mohammed Alkali, who was represented by the Deputy Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, Dr Sabiu Gwallabe, told newsmen on Thursday in Bauchi that JOHESU members in the hospital had joined strike.

However, he said some staffers were rendering medical services to patients, especially patients with emergency cases.

“The doctors, temporary staff and NYSC members are not part of JOHESU, so they are all on ground to attend to patients. Some of our units like maternity, special medical unit, paediatric unit and others are rendering services to patients,” he said.

In Benin, there was total compliance to the strike by JOHESU members in the state.

NAN reports that the industrial action took some patients unawares because they were not sensitised on the strike.

Pregnant women who appeared worse hit by the strike lamented that the action had put them in a precarious situation because some of them were very close to their Expected Date of Delivery (EDD).

“I am in the last phase of my third trimester, and I am in the hospital for my weekly antenatal check. But there is no medical staff to attend to me for the past four hours,” she said.

Also, Mrs Ifueko Omoruyi, another expectant mother, said pregnant women should be taken into consideration before any industrial action by health workers and made alternative arrangements for them.

In Bayelsa, Save Mubani, Coordinator of JOHESU Chapter, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa, said the union was strongly in support of the strike and there was no going back.

According to Mubani, the unions under the JOHESU in the state have no choice than to join the nationwide strike.

“We have mobilised our members and everyone has to sit at home. We are not the cause of this strike, because we gave the Federal Government enough time to handle the matter but all to no avail.

“This strike was as a result of failure of the Federal Government to implement and abide by the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement reached on Sept. 30, 2017; so no implementation, no work,” he said.

From Osun, health services at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile-Ife, and other federal health facilities have been paralysed due to the strike.

The Senior Registrar, Plastic Surgery Department, OAUTHC, Dr Odun Afolabi, said the hospital management had discharged patients with serious health cases.

However, he said some doctors had been mobilised to render skeletal services, attending to patients in the ward, but new patients would not be admitted for now.

“We are just doing skeletal work because all the sterilised equipment were locked up, there is no water and electricity, the doctors are finding it difficult to work,’’ he lamented.

Meanwhile, health workers in public hospitals in Lagos State had called on the federal government to urgently attend to their demands to avoid further crisis in the health sector.

NAN correspondents who visited some hospitals across the state reported skeletal services.
At the National Orthopedic Hospital (NOHI), Igbobi Lagos, doctors were seen attending to the few patients in the hospital.

Tade Oyedele, Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), NOHI chapter, urged the government to be proactive without any further delay.

“As far as JOHESU is concerned, we have tried all available means to get the situations resolved.

“It is a pity that the patients will bear the impact of the whole issue but we have no option than to use the weapon that we have to fight for our rights,’’ he said.

Also, Mrs Temitope Alabi, Secretary, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), NOHI Igbobi Chapter, told NAN that government should be responsible for the health of every Nigerian.

According to her, the union is seeking equity and fairness that will help health workers across the nation to carry out their duties diligently.

Similarly, Fagbemi Olakunle, Secretary, Medical and Health Workers Union, NOHI branch, urged stakeholders to intervene in order to avert regrettable effects on patients.

“It is painful that we are embarking on this strike; our members are very concerned about the health of our patients. However, the federal government has strained us into embarking on this strike; we want to call on well-meaning Nigerians to please intervene,’’ Olakunle said.

Also at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, only senior health officers were seen attending to patients.

The out-patients department was empty as there were no workers at the health records unit to bring out the files of patients.

Though the Emergency Department was offering skeletal services; no nurse was seen at the reception to attend to the few patients who came in.

Eke Uzondu, South-Western Coordinator, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Yaba Chapter, told NAN that the health workers constituted 90 per cent of the health workforce.

According to him, the sector cannot be productive if the workers are denied their rights.

“If the worker is not happy, how can you deliver services; if the worker’s rights are denied, do you not think that it will affect productivity of that worker?

“The health sector is not as productive as it should be and to resuscitate it, we need to revive the engine house of the sector.

“If 90 per cent of the engine is gone, the other 10 per cent cannot do anything,’’ he said.

The coordinator also urged the federal government to implement the agreement it reached with the health workers to prevent further loss of lives.

According to Uzondu, government should also pay more attention to the sector by investing more in the facilities.

At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebute- Meta, work was still skeletal, even as the unions called for government’s intervention.

Sunday Adegoke, Chairman, Medical and Health Workers’ Union (MHWUN), FMC Ebute Meta Chapter, also called on the government to appreciate the demands and fulfil the agreement signed.

At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Mrs Yemisi Adelaja, told NAN that efforts made by the union to get the federal government to implement the agreements reached had not been positive.

Adelaja, Chairperson, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), LUTH Chapter, said the federal government should immediately intervene to avoid further deterioration of the nation’s health sector.

NAN reports that the JOHESU, with membership drawn from six affiliate unions, commenced a nationwide strike by midnight of April 18.

The unions include the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) and Medical and Health Workers’ Union (MHWUN).

Others are the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), and Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria.

The union is asking for the immediate implementation of the agreement signed with the Federal Government on their demands which included a good salary structure, payment of outstanding salaries and uniform allowances, among others.

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