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Nigerian health workers abandon patients on World Patient Safety Day

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Patients in Nigeria clearly did not know that yesterday, September 17, was the 2020 World Patients Safety Day, marked globally to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public engagement in the safety of health care and promote global actions to enhance patient safety and reduce patient harm.

While the world also celebrated health workers in view of their exceptional sacrifice in the battle against COVID-19 pandemic, those in Nigeria stayed off duties in continuation of their  7-day warning strike to protest against “poor funding and infrastructural decay in the health sector” Yesterday was the fourth day of the strike.

Only doctors were left to attend to patients in most Federal hospitals nationwide. Their efforts were however greatly hampered by inability to access patients’ records and laboratory services as a result of the strike.

The Union had in a tweet, shortly before the commencement of the strike, declared that it had exhausted all alternative measures before calling its members to down tools.

Apart from “poor funding and infrastructural decay in the health sector,”  the Union also wants the Government to address “discriminatory policies and favoritism, poor welfare of our members, owing backlog of salaries, and allowance of our members among other things.

“Nigerians should take note, we have exhausted all alternative means of dispute resolution, before declaring this warning strike. Failure to respond to our demands will result in indefinite strike action.”

But the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, described the strike  as “inimical to an equable settlement of the dispute, bearing in mind especially that this is a grave period of a pandemic, where the Federal Government has spent about N20 billion to pay April/May, and an additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 on COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances, respectively, to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.”

There was no official statement from the government to commemorate the day.

However, President of Commonwealth Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, urged governments of countries in the Commonwealth of nations and other stakeholders to invest in the safety and protection of health workers and patients. He commended physicians and other healthcare professionals/healthcare workers across worldwide for their tremendous sacrifices and commitment in protecting and safeguarding humanity while also lamenting the loss of healthcare workers and other citizens to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Patient Safety Day was established by the 72nd World Health Assembly, in May 2019, with the adoption of resolution WHA72.6 on ‘Global action on patient safety’, and an endorsement for the Day to be marked annually on 17 September.

The objectives are to:

  • Raise global awareness about the importance of health worker safety and its interlinkages with patient safety
  • Engage multiple stakeholders and adopt multimodal strategies to improve the safety of health workers and patients
  • Implement urgent and sustainable actions by all stakeholders which recognize and invest in the safety of health workers, as a priority for patient safety
  • Provide due recognition of health workers’ dedication and hard work, particularly amid the current fight against COVID-19

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