• Minister faults action, doctors pledge to work
AS the strike by workers of federal hospitals entered its second day Thursday, only skeletal services were provided at such health facilities nationwide.
But the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has condemned the indefinite nationwide strike embarked upon by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).
On its part, the JOHESU faulted the minister, saying he failed to honour a meeting summoned on Monday by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, to resolve the crisis.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), various unions, including the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, National Association of Nurses and Midwives, and Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals and Research Institutions are participating in the strike.
Others are the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, and Nigerian Union of Pharmacists, Medical Technologists and Professions Allied to Medicine.
They are demanding improved working conditions and facilities at various health facilities across the country.
The issues the agitation is about include non-skipping of salary grade level CONHESS 10; the National Health Bill; consultancy and specialist allowances and call/shift duty and other professional allowances.
While some skeletal services were being rendered by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), no nurse was seen on duty at the Orthopaedic and Psychiatric hospitals yesterday in Lagos following the strike by the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP).
NUAHP comprises pharmacists, physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists, radiographers, dental technologists, occupational therapists, health information managers, dieticians and other related health professionals in teaching hospitals.
Although doctors at the Lagos’ Orthopaedic and Psychiatric hospitals were attending to patients, no nurse was seen.
Some families are considering withdrawing their patients at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, if the strike persists.
“The nurses are closer to the patients than the doctors and since the strike began, the relatives have had to observe the responsibilities of the nurses so that the patients do not lack care,” said Mrs. Sade Williams, a 37-year-old food vendor.
She added that the doctor attended to her normally, but she was unable to be admitted because of the strike.
Williams said that the hospital extended her appointment pending the time the strike is called off.
Miss Dupe Kazeem, a 33-year-old patient, said she had been at the hospital since morning but had not been attended to.
She, however, said that the doctors urged her to be patient and that she would be attended to before the end of the day but the hospital was short of workers.
At the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, the environment was practically deserted. Efforts by journalists to interview patients were thwarted by the hospital security personnel.
Mrs. Patience Ativie, a patient at the Federal Medical Centre, Ebute-Metta, said that she did not expect the strike as she visited the hospital for her daughter’s routine immunisation.
She said: “I came for immunisation as well as to see my gynaecologist, but I can see there is a strike.
“I will have to go and register in another hospital for ante-natal, because I cannot imagine not seeing a doctor.”
Another patient at the same hospital, Mr. Ayodele Adeyemi, said his wife was just delivered of a baby and in light of that, he was disappointed in the health system that could not care for them. He said his wife was referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) for further treatment.
“It is quite sad that the strike is happening at this time. I am appealing to the Federal Government to meet the demands of the workers so that healthcare will be delivered to the people,” he urged.
On its part, the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi, said through its Chief Information Officer, Mr. Alex Ohemu, that skeletal services were being provided by the hospital despite the industrial action.
Ohemu said in Makurdi that all critical patients at the hospital were still being attended to.
“All patients with critical conditions are going to remain in the hospital despite the strike; the hospital would only discharge patients with less serious issues.
“Also, all heads of departments, doctors, management staff, NYSC members and house officers are not embarking on the strike.”
However, the Chairman, Joint Action Unions in the institution, Mr. Moses Shausu, while addressing the FMC members of staff, directed them to join the general strike.
He said that the Federal Government deliberately refused to implement their agreement despite the court ruling of July 22.
Shausu, who is also the state Chairman of JOHESU, further explained that the unions had earlier given the government a 21-day ultimatum to implement the agreement or face a strike, which expired on August 21.
Other government hospitals in the state capital were also affected.
Patients that went to the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile-Ife, yesterday were seen groaning, condemning the strike.
A majority of the offices were locked, while most of the patients had been discharged.
Many of the patients, who were obviously frustrated, claimed to have arrived at the hospital as early as 7.00 a.m. but were not attended to.
A patient, who simply identified herself as Yemisi, lamented that she came from Ibadan, Oyo State, with a referral letter to OAUTHC only to find out that health workers were not available.
In Yola, Adamawa, the workers have served a seven-day strike notice, threatening to join the strike if government fails to meet their demands.
Mr. Jeremiah Ndyakwar, the state Chairman of the union, said in Yola that the National Industrial Court had ruled in favour of the workers in a suit on July 22.
He said even though the state union was not on strike, they were watching “with keen interest’’ to support their federal colleagues if government refused to comply with the court judgment.
The Public Relations Officer of the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, Malam Adamu Dodo, said that the strike had severely affected the services of the hospital.
However, Dodo said that the hospital was now rendering skeletal services to the patients.
In Kaduna, workers of the National Eye Centre and the Federal Neuro- Psychiatric Hospital joined the strike.
The Chairman, Medical and Health Workers Union, Psychiatric Chapter, Mr. Atule Emmanuel, said all patients had been discharged from the hospital to their various homes with the help of the social welfare workers.`
The Chief Medical Director of the University of IIorin Teaching Hospital, Prof. Abdulwaheed Olatinwo, confirmed that the institution was providing skeletal services to save lives.
Olatinwo said in Ilorin that the provision of the skeletal services at the emergency department and other vital organs of the hospital did not mean the hospital workers did not join the strike.
On his part, the Chairman of the Kwara branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Mikail Buhari, said skeletal services were being provided in vital areas of the hospital.
The chairman said that medical doctors, nurses and other health workers were rendering medical services at the emergency department and attending to those on admission.
At the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, hundreds of patients seeking medical attention at the hospital were denied attention. The hospital management discharged in-patients considered stable enough.
But the assistant director public affairs at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Aminu Inuwa, insisted that the hospital would still function on some critical facilities, including accident and emergency unit, general operation unit and special baby care unit.
The Chairman of Medical and Health Workers Union in Dala Orthopaedic Hospital, Karibu Lawal, told The Guardian that members would not join the strike for now till further notice. He noted that the leadership was still consulting on the next line of action.
But the state chairman of the union, Kabiru Ado Mingibir, told The Guardian in a telephone interview that members in federal health institutions in Kano were very much prepared to join the strike.
The leadership of the Senior Staff Association of the Psychiatric Hospital in Benin City yesterday accused the management of the hospital of planning to truncate the strike.
A statement yesterday by the chairman and secretary of the union in the hospital, Kennedy Oriakhi and Theophilus Osifo, alleged that the Medical Director of the hospital, Sunday Olotu, had issued a directive that correspondence from the union relating to the strike should not be received and also used security operatives to prevent the union from meeting with its members on the premises.
But in a reaction yesterday, the hospital’s spokesman, Efe Stewart, told The Guardian that the EXCO members were in the office.
In an interview with The Guardian, the minister slammed the JOHESU for embarking on the strike which he described as illegal because the matter was still in the Appeal Court.
In reaction to the strike, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has directed all doctors nationwide to remain at their duty posts and render uninterrupted services, particularly for emergency cases, in all public hospitals.
The NMA, yesterday, in a statement jointly signed by the President NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, and Secretary General, Dr. Akpufuoma .L. Pemu, said the charge became necessary because information revealed that plans were being made by some hospital support members of staff to prevent doctors from providing healthcare services in public hospitals.
FROM CHUKWUMA MUANYA, ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU, MURTALA MUHAMMED AND KARLS TSOKAR
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