Health Minister To Meet Striking Workers On Monday

Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu
Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu

The Federal Ministry of Health is to meet with health workers next Monday on how to end the ongoing strike, after the workers embarked on a nationwide strike on Thursday, to press for the implementation of an agreement reached with the government.

As the government was making arrangements to dialogue with the striking workers, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) yesterday, directed all doctors to render uninterrupted services, especially for emergency cases.

Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said yesterday at a news conference in Abuja, that series of informal meetings had been held between the union, Minister of Labour and Productivity and other relevant personnel.

He said the ministry was ready to “meet with the workers on Monday but was waiting for them (Joint Health Sector Unions) to accept the date.

“A meeting was also scheduled for Thursday (Wednesday). Although, the union’s president was present, it could not form a quorum because some members left, so we only had an informal talk.

“Report reaching us indicates that the strike is at various levels but in some institution nobody is on strike, while in others health workers, except pharmacists and doctors, are on strike.

“We are compiling full report to know the hospitals on strike.

“The main four issues at stake that we could not quite agree on are skipping of promotion, the national health bill, appointment of consultants, and allowances,” he said.

Chukwu said since those issues could not be resolved through dialogue or negotiation they were referred to the National Industrial Court, according to the rules, governing labour.

“The matter is before the court, any matter before the court means we should not take any further action until it dispenses with it,” he said.

The Minister however, said government was desirous of ensuring lasting harmony in the sector.

Meanwhile, the NMA National President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, said in a statement, that plans were being made by the striking workers to prevent doctors from providing healthcare services in the hospitals, after the association, yesterday, directed all doctors to render uninterrupted services, especially for emergency cases.

According to him, we have nothing against the right of people to determine how best to actualise their demands.

“We shall, however, not tolerate any attempt to obstruct medical and dental practitioners in the course of rendering their official duties,” he said.

Enabulele urged the chief medical directors of the affected hospitals to provide adequate security and access to hospital materials, equipment and other healthcare facilities.

The striking workers are demanding for “non-skipping of salary grade level CONHESS 10, the passage of the National Health Bill, consultancy and specialist allowances and call/shift duty, as well as other professional allowances.

The health workers now on strike include nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, as well as allied workers in the sector such as the administrative personnel in the hospitals.