As Health Workers under the auspices of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) yesterday began an indefinite strike nationwide, activities at many of the federal hospitals were paralysed, leaving many patients seeking care stranded.
Among facilities where operations were paralysed include the ever busy National Hospital Abuja, the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Kwara State, the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, the Lagos Universtity Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idiaraba, the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), among others.
Worried over the strike, the Head of Department Information and Protocol Dr. Adetayo Haastrup who spoke to the New Telegraph on Wednesday in Abuja, had expressed fears that although doctors and interns were fully on ground to handle the situation, there were strong possibilities that some patients might die as a result of the strike.
“The national body of JOHESU called for a strike and National Hospital JOHESU members met this morning at 10am and resolved that they were going on strike. They have declared and joined the strike but doctors were working which means, patients were coming into see the doctors.
The five unions that make up JOHESU and they include the Medical and Health Workers Union, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, National Union of Allied Health Professionals and Non Academic Staff Union (NASU).
The demands of JOHESU include, “The flagship adjustment of the present salaries of health workers, the non-expansion of internship to other professional groups in the health sector, non-training of other health professionals, and the issue of selective treatment of personnel in the health sector.
At the FMC, Ebutte Meta and the LUTH, members of JOHESU similarly complied with the directive to embark on the strike.
Mr. Kehinde Adegoke, a former chairman of JOHESU in LUTH, said the union shelved the plan to picket on Wednesday because members of JOHESU on ground complied with the directive to embark on the strike. However, a statement by the management of LUTH, signed by the facility’s Head, Corporate services Division, Kelechi.O. Otuneme said, “LUTH has made arrangements to work with available man power, 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 services to those requiring such.”
Speaking on their decision to down tools, the Chairman of JOHESU at UCH, Olusegun Sotiloye, said that the strike was national and that no medical service would be rendered by the members while the strike lasted.
According to him, “The problem surrounds the Federal Government’s failure to implement court judgments dating as far back as 2009 and 2012. We have made several entreaties but the Federal Government has ignored all efforts to resolve the matters amicably. The Federal Government also expressed insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.
Similarly, speaking on the strike and its effects on patients, chairman of JOHESU in the Kwara State, Comrade Olawumi Olutunde argued that the union had endured with the government that made a pledge to address their grievances in six weeks yet had failed to do so in six months.
However, a few workers were left to manage patients in critical wards until they would be able to effect their transfer to alternative facilities.
In Benue State, the story was not different. When the New Telegraph visited the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Makurdi, there was an impressive compliance to the directive as directed by the national leadership of association.
The Chief Information Officer of the hospital, Dr. Mrs. Uyeh who confirmed the development to New Telegraph said all health workers had complied with the stay-at-home order by the national body.
At the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, the situation was the same as most health workers stayed away in compliance with the directive by the national Secretariat of JOHESU.