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Concurrent strikes shut down hospitals, as strikebreak threatens

Nursing bays, pharmacies, laboratories in federal hospitals across the country stayed shut for the second day as workers continued their seven-day strike. Thousands of hospital…

Nursing bays, pharmacies, laboratories in federal hospitals across the country stayed shut for the second day as workers continued their seven-day strike.

Thousands of hospital nurses, pharmacists, and laboratory staff, belonging to five unions affiliated to the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), will be off work after JOHESU accused the federal government of denying agreements it reached with them in months past.

The strike is worsened by a concurrent strike by National Association of Resident Doctors, whose congress will not meet until Friday to decide whether to suspend its strike after an intervention meeting brokered between it and federal health ministry by House Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

Only emergency services were on at National Hospital on Thursday, a day after the strike took hold.

Emergency staff attended to a couple of patient in the bay, apart from a lone patient in the emergency ward.

The hospital’s surgical outpatient department, normally crammed full on each five clinic days a week, was empty, with cleaners dozing and lazing on the seats after their work.

Patients visiting haematology labs to pick up results of previously run tests met empty offices, and doors to consultants’ offices stayed locked.

JOHESU is umbrella body for MHWUN, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), National Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Assembly of Healthcare Professionals (AHPA).

Its strike is the culmination of repeated ultimatums totalling 92 days—and the breakdown of agreements reached with federal government—since February last year.

According to JOHESU, at a meeting between its and federal government negotiators on Tuesday, “To our utmost surprise the Federal Government asserted that there was no agreement on the issues upon which erstwhile Secretary to the Federal Government set up a sub-committee, the report of which was accepted by the Federal Government and another sub-committee set up to work out the financial implication to be submitted to the Federal Government for approval,” according to Josiah Biobelemoye, president of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, a JOHESU member.

“Other issues upon which previous submissions had been made were equally pushed to the unions to make fresh submission showing lack of seriousness on the part of the Federal Government,” Biobelemoye added.

 “We have given notice to government up to 92 days, government came up to tell us something they should have told us long time ago, trying to deny what happened that there wasn’t an agreement to adjust CONHESS,” said Biobelemoye.

“The question is: if there wasn’t, was the SGF at that time, his Excellency Pius Anyim Pius, lying to us? If that wasn’t, on what basis did they make the calculation for financial implications? So I don’t think sack is the issue, is not that easy as that. If we are sacked wrongly as people that are established in employment, we will take the matter as it is.”

Both strikes put together have rankled some health workers and raised possibility of breaking them, considering its impact and comparing it against the plight of workers who have gone months without pay in some states.

A healthworker who opted not to be named told Daily Trust patriots must “speak for the nation—thousands that would suffer, die or perhaps further debilitated by the recurrent strikes in the health sector.”

“As a concerned fellow, I should align with my constituency, but not anymore. The state of the nation today calls for sacrificial service if Nigeria would survive at all. How can some be talking of arrears, review of pecuniary agreements and additions to whatever, when civil servants have not seen basic salary [in] to five to eight states? Please condemn this strike. Nigeria is bleeding and suffocating to death. Let’s revive it.”


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