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JOHESU: Activities paralysed in Lagos as state, local workers join strike

There were growing concerns in Lagos on Friday as health sector employees in the state and local government councils joined the Joint Health Sector Union…

There were growing concerns in Lagos on Friday as health sector employees in the state and local government councils joined the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) members in their ongoing health workers strike.

JOHESU had commenced a nationwide indefinite strike on April 18, to protest alleged Federal Government failure to meet their demands.

Their demands included the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Scheme (CONHESS).

As a follow up, JOHESU’s National Chairman, Biobelemoye Josiah had directed its members in the states and local government areas to join the ongoing health workers strike by midnight of Wednesday, May 9.

He had said that the decision to extend the industrial action to the states and local government areas was due to government’s lack of concern in meeting the demands of the union for adjustment of the CONHESS salary structure.

This, he said, affected over 95 per cent of the health workforce nationwide.

Mr Olatunji Tajudeen, Chairman, JOHESU, Lagos State, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos that the workers joined the JOHESU strike in solidarity, to push for government’s action.

According to him, the Lagos State Government is currently in a dialogue with the union, but the talks are still in a deadlock.

“We have decided to join the federal health workers in order to proffer a quick response from the government to our demands.

“Our demands are the same and we expect the government to answer us; we are expecting at least 90 per cent compliance from our health workers,’’ he said.

Nevertheless, NAN correspondents went round some health facilities in Lagos state to ascertain the level of compliance, as well as its impact on service delivery to patients.

Health Records Dept, General Outpatients, LASUTH. May 11, 2018  (NAN)

At the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja and Randle General Hospital, Surulere, visits by NAN showed that health workers were not at their duty posts and only skeletal services were offered by the consultants and resident doctors available.

The health records, pharmacy, and laboratory departments of the hospitals were closed and no nurse was seen at their posts, including the wards.

An officer at the laboratory department of LASUTH told NAN that only a few tests were being carried out by the doctors available.

 

Randle General Hospital, Randle, Surulere, Lagos May 11, 2018 (NAN)

At the Randle General Hospital, the premises was almost empty; a patient, Mr Steven Briska, said he was there to carry out some tests but was surprised to see that the laboratory was closed.

He said he needed medical care urgently and would be able to afford a private hospital.

“I am appealing to both parties to have mercy on the patients and resolve the issues,’’ Briska said.

A NAN check at  the Somolu General Hospital showed that, in spite of the restriction order, some nurses still rendered skeletal services to patients, though they were casually dressed.

Patients were also seen in the premises waiting to be attended to by the few staff available.

A nurse who pleaded anonymity told NAN that she was carrying out humanitarian support in assisting the helpless patients.

“We have many patients on admission that need to be attended to, and that is why we are here today.

“The strike is ongoing and we are in compliance but we can’t abandon these patients who have been admitted before the commencement of the strike,’’ she said.

A patient, Mr Samuel Odibo, while reacting to the strike said: “It is a pity that we, as a country, still find ourselves in this mess of strikes in the health sector.

“The effect of the strike is mainly on the patients because there will be an increase in the financial burden on patients.

“There will also be an increase in the number of deaths, especially amongst the poor and also unequal access to quality medical care,’’ he said.

Mrs Adeoti Olawale, another patient, said: “I call on the Lagos State Government to intervene in the ongoing strike, before it cripples the state’s health sector.

“Most people can’t afford the private hospitals; the Primary and General Hospitals are very vital health institutions in the state,’’ she said.

At the General Hospital, Odan, Lagos Island, and the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, NAN reports that health workers appeared to be in total compliance as they joined the ongoing strike.

They were not seen at their duty posts.

A visit to the departments which included the eye clinic, emergency centre, radiology, peadiatrics and the administrative building, showed that health workers totally complied with the order.

Some patients were seen waiting for their doctors at the consulting rooms and doctors were also seen attending to old patients.

At the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital, pregnant women were seen waiting to be checked but nurses were not there to assist the doctors.

A medical doctor, who did not want to be identified said: “We are not admitting or attending to new patients in my department but hopefully, they can come back in the next four weeks.

“I think attention is being given to emergency cases, in order to avoid loss of lives and complications during the strike,’’ she said.

A patient’s relative, Alhaji Kareem Ayinde, told NAN he was not aware of the strike before coming to the health facility.

According to him, he has need to see a medical or health expert over intense pains in his joints.

Mrs Ibukun Ojo, who had an appointment with her doctor, urged the government to grant health workers their demands.

Another pregnant woman also pleaded with the government to urgently attend to the demands of the striking health workers, to reduce incidences of casualties, especially maternal-related deaths.

NAN’s visit to the Amuwo Odofin Maternal and Child Centre (AOMCC), showed that while the workers also joined the JOHESU strike, the management adopted measures to help relieve its resultant burden on patients.

There was a notice at the hospital’s reception informing patients about the strike and asking them to bear with the hospital.

A few health workers were, however, seen within the environment, although, none was seen wearing uniforms; doctors were seen attending to patients in the wards and in the delivery room.

Patients were also around waiting to be attended to.

The Director of Service Delivery Charter at the hospital, Dr Mercy Alokha, told NAN that doctors were on ground to ensure that activities go on as usual.

Alokha said: “Doctors have been on ground, even the Medical Director (MD); we have delegated doctors to different places.

“I have even operated on two cases today and we have had two emergencies since yesterday night; we are seeing our patients and women are giving births.’’

She, however, explained that priority was given to emergencies, while patients with minor symptoms were asked to go back home and return when they are in labour.

Dr Dapo Soyinka, MD of the hospital, told NAN that in spite of the strike, everything was going on as usual.

However, a patient, Yetunde Adeyemi, told NAN that she had been waiting for about one hour to collect her lab results.

Another patient, Adanma Idika, who was not there on an emergency, said that she came to run a scan and was being attended to.

Also, at the Amuwo Odofin Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC), patients were seen being attended to by health workers who also were not wearing uniforms.

When NAN called the Health Officer, he declined to speak on the strike but referred the correspondent to the Council Manager, who was not available at the time of filing this report.

NAN also visited the  Akerele Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC), Surulere Local Government Area, the Isolo General Hospital and the Agodo Primary Health Centre, Agodo, Egbe-Idimu, Lagos.

At the Primary Health Centre, Akerele, nurses, who were usually seen were not on their seats to attend to patients who visited the facility. However, some officials were attending to patients who wanted to see the doctor.

Some patients who spoke NAN said that they were fed up with the health system and urged the government to take urgent steps to address the strike.

A patient, Mrs Ijeoma Ugbaja, who brought her two-year-old son to see a paediatrician, said she was turned back and told to revisit the hospital whenever the strike was called off.

Ugbaja, who was almost in tears said: “My son has a swelling on his abdomen and I want the doctor to take a look at it before it gets advanced.

“Now that the workers are on strike, I do not know what to do; I only hope that the strike is called off soon so that we can get the care we need to survive.’’

Another patient, Mrs Bidemi Adebayo, said she was surprised at the development and only hoped that the strike would end soon.

“Our health system is already weak and embarking on strike will only make it worse for people who are seeking healthcare.

“We need a system that cares for the citizenry; we need to be healthy to be able to contribute meaningfully to the economy.

“I am appealing to the government to negotiate with the workers so that we can be attended to,’’ Adebayo said.

At the Isolo General Hospital, a notice was seen on the gate saying: “Due to the ongoing strike by JOHESU, only skeletal services would be rendered to our esteemed patients’’.

One of the members of staff told NAN that the hospital did not join in the strike because of the MD’s compassion for the sick.

At the Agodo Health Centre, as well as the Ejigbo Health Centre, the staff also claimed that they did not join the strike.

“There is no gainsaying that these recurrent strikes in the health sector continue to raise questions on the exact state of our health system.

“It is sad that most of the casualties are not going to be health workers or the government.

“Rather, they are going to be the masses, the “common’’ man, who cannot afford to go to private hospitals or embark on medical tourism.

“There is need for JOHESU and the FG to urgently reach an agreement, to prevent avoidable casualties,’’ an out-patient at the Ejigbo Health Centre noted. (NAN)

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