MEDICAL workers in government-owned hospitals nationwide yesterday began a three-day warning strike to demand among other things, promotion of stagnated healthcare professionals on the post of deputy directors on a salary grade level 16 to position of director with salary grade level 17 in accordance with the various schemes of service approved by the National Council on Establishments since 2000.
Other demands ranged from payment of specialists allowance, immediate withdrawal of the circular seeking to downgrade health professionals, and harmonisation of call duty allowance amongst others.
There were no nurses, pharmacists, medical laboratory scientists and other health workers available on ground at some of the Federal Government hospitals visited yesterday by The Guardian. The doctors on ground at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, were overwhelmed by the influx of patients.
The Public Relations Officer of LUTH, Mrs. Hope Nwawolo, told The Guardian: “The doctors are working, it is the other health workers that are on strike; the nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and laboratory scientists. We are not turning back patients. We are trying our best.”
At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebute Metta, Lagos, The Guardian learnt that the health workers had been on strike since last week.
As at the time of filing this report, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, could not be reached. But Chukwu told The Guardian last week that the reports of the Committee on Harmonious Working Relationship in the Health Sector and Committee on Residency Programme set up last year to find a lasting solution to the incessant strike actions by medical workers are out, and the Ministry is set to implement the recommendations to the letter.
The three-day nationwide warning strike was called by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) comprising Medical Health Workers Union (MHWUN), Non Academic Staff Union of Teaching Hospital (NASU), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Senior Staff Association of Teaching Hospitals and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), and Nigerian Union of Pharmacists and Medical Scientists and Professionals Allied to Medicine (NUPMTPAM).
JOHESU in a press statement jointly signed by the unions said that the Federal Ministry of Health has refused to implement for over 11 years now.
JOHESU had on October 7, 2011 issued a 21-day ultimatum which expired on October 28, 2011. The group had vowed to commence strike after the expiration of the first ultimatum in October but did not do so. Rather, it chose to extend the ultimatum to November 15.
On its communication with government, the group alleged failure on the part of the Minister of Health, Prof. Chukwu to reconvene a larger committee to receive recommendations reached by a meeting between it (JOHESU) and Federal Government, which was presided over by the Minister of Health. It added that up till now, nothing has been heard from the Federal Ministry of Health, despite a series of entreaties made by JOHESU to the ministry.
The statement read: “In the light of this, JOHESU has resolved to embark on a three-day warning strike, beginning from Wednesday the 21st of December, 2011,to end on Friday the 23rd of December, 2011. Therefore all members of JOHESU nationwide in all federal health institutions are hereby directed to commence a three-day warning strike by withdrawing their services on the three days.”