Crisis Looms In Nigeria Hospitals As Health Workers Announce Indefinite Strike

The Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, has announced an indefinite strike that, it says, will paralyse activities in all health institutions across the country with effective from today.

File photo (Doctors protesting)
While speaking during a courtesy visit to chief medical director of the National Hospital, Abuja, Jafaru Momoh, president of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), Josiah Biobelemoye, announced that the union will begin an indefinite nationwide strike by midnight on Tuesday.

He alleged that the minister of health, Isaac Adewole, had been treating the union members as slaves, adding that the minister failed to implement the agreement reached by the union with the federal government on September 30, 2017, for upward adjustment of CONHESS.

Biobelemoye said the implementation of the agreement was supposed to begin five weeks after it was signed “as was done for medical doctors”, adding that JOHESU accounted for 95 percent of health sector workers in the country but regretted that the union’s demands were always taken for granted.

He said; “We are committed to ensuring peace in the sector hence for the past three years we resisted strike but we should not be forced to withdraw the peace. Help us to tell government. All we are saying is equity, justice and peace.

“We love Nigerians and government should help us love Nigerians the more by doing the needful.”

Speaking to PREMIUM Times on Monday, the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, confirmed the announcement of the indefinite strike, saying that it will paralyse activities in all health institutions across the country.

"All federal government health institutions in Nigeria including federal medical centres, specialists’ hospitals, orthopedic hospitals, psychiatric hospitals among others will be the first to shut down. If the government allows the strike to continue after two weeks, all the states and local government health institutions will now join."

The members of JOHESU which includes hospital workers, nurses and pharmacists, but excluding medical doctors and dentists, had embarked on a nationwide strike last September to protest among other issues, salary adjustments, promotion arrears, and improved work environment for its members.

The strike caused many hospitals to discharge sick patients, worsening the health situation of many, and on the 9th day of the strike, JOHESU struck a deal with government.

The union said that six months after the deal was struck, the government is yet to meet any of its demands. Last month, the union further gave the government a 30 days ultimatum.

“Before now we gave the government 21 working days as an ultimatum. Last month, we also threatened to go on strike after 30 working days which will expire tomorrow (Tuesday) and government have not really done anything tangible.

“They only invited us on the 5th of April told us that our issues are being looked into as usual without any concrete effort on how they are planning to meet our demand. So our National Executive Council (NEC) met in Abuja and appraised the situation and we resolved to continue with the strike, no going back”, the union leader said.

He said the agreement the union had with the government on September 30, 2017 was that their demands would be met in five weeks. “That five weeks has metamorphosed to six months and still counting,” the official said.

He also spoke on the potential impact of the strike on patients. “We know this strike will affect the masses and we are compassionate about the people; that was why we gave enough time for the government to do the needful. But the only thing government seems to respect is strike.

“The labor law gives us that opportunity that if our employer is not showing interest in our matter, we can withdraw our services through strike and we had followed all the due processes before arriving to this decision.”

When contacted, the health minister, Isaac Adewole, said the government is working to avert the strike. “We are reaching out to abort the strike. Almost all demands have been met. Government is looking into remaining issues to address them comprehensively,” he said.

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