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Health workers set to cripple hospital services

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  •  Begin strike today

  • Health Minister shelves UNGA trip to dialogue with unions

Prof. Isaac Adewole
Minister of Health

Unless the Federal Government prevails on health workers unions in the country to suspend their planned strike over unmet demands, the workers are set to shut dowm hospitals nationwide effective from today.

Our correspondent learnt Tuesday night that leaders of the workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) were at a crucial meeting with the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, with the  hope that he could prevail on them to suspend the action.

The Minister  could not attend the ongoing 72nd Session of United Nations General Assembly in the US following the threats from the workers to down tools this week coming  shortly after the recently-resolved government impasse with members of Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, NARD.

JOHESU comprises almost 95 percent of health workforce in the country, meaning their decision to suspend work will cripple public hospitals. Some of the unions under the body are Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN; Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN; NANNM; and the Assembly of Health Care Professionals.

Nigeria health workforce, comprising medical doctors, nurses, midwives, record officers, physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists among others have the knack for alternating strike. When a group proceeds on strike and government positively addresses the demands of the group, others warm themselves up for a similar action.

The government, on the other hand,  yields to employees’ demands mostly when strike, the last resort and seemingly most effective tool for public servants in the country, is involved

Trouble began when the Federal Government had fruitful discussions with members of NARD fortnight ago, prompting the doctors to suspend their 10-day-old strike. Few hours later, JOHESU emerged with its threat and sought audience with government.

JOHESU said it would begin a nationwide strike, September 20 if government fails to address its grievances.  In the health workers’ letter, titled “Looming Nationwide Industrial Action: Request for Audience,”  and signed by JOHESU’s National Chairman, Joy Josiah, and its National Secretary, Ekpebor Florence , the groups required to have audience with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara,  on Wednesday and Thursday September 20 and 21 respectively on their demands.

On Tuesday, shortly before the meeting of JOHESU’s leaders with the Minister of Health, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) had met and discussed exhaustively on issues bordering on the nation’s health care services, state of infrastructure, Nigeria health care policies and management, welfare of its members, among others.

The group, through its President, Nurse Abdulrafiu Adeniji, directed all its members to join Wednesday strike, if government fails to meet its demands.

“The leadership of NANNM states expressly that it is in agreement with all JOHESU’s positions on the recent 7-day ultimatum given to the Federal government to accede to all its lingering demands dated back to 2012,” Adeniji said at a press briefing.

Demands of the group includes call for gazetting Unified Scheme of Services approved for nurses and midwives which recognizes the professional status of nursing, and the lateral conversion for those that have acquired Bachelor of Nursing Sciences (BNSc) and internship for fresh graduates of Nursing sciences; lack of equipment and medical consumables health facilities in the country which NANNM said was affecting the delivery of quality health care; tackling quackery in nursing profession.

Others are appointment of consultant cadre in nursing “in accordance with the laid down principles and in line with the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) judgment;  teaching allowance for deserving members; failure of government to pay uniform allowance for many years; skipping of CONHESS 10 and payment of arrears; and relativity arrears members.

The demands include rural allowance; and failure of government at all levels in the country to raise budget for health care system to at least meet the African agreed standard of 15% budgetary allocation as contained in Abuja declaration of April, 2001 by Heads of States of African Union.

“It was equally resolved that the time is now to implement the fund allocation clause as contained in the Nigeria Health Act to consolidate primary health care services.”

Our correspondent could not confirm if JOHESU was able to meet the National Assembly leadership as it requested in its letter at the time of filing this report.

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