Health workers’ strike: In whose interest?

Doctors' Strike
Doctors’ Strike

By Doyin Ojosipe

It has been almost two weeks since health workers, under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) gone on a national industrial action, which has almost turned the Federal Teaching Hospitals into ghost villages; as the hospitals witnessed serene environments, without the usual presence of Nurses, Laboratory Scientists, Attendants, Pharmacists, Technicians and other health workers who keep the hospital running with their different scheduled routines.

The bed spaces have suddenly gone empty as most patients seem to have left the government hospitals obviously to patronize private hospitals and clinics where they could get quality health care services as the teaching hospitals could not deliver such services at the moment.

Mr. Michael Adeyemi, a parent of a patient at the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital, said the news of the strike came as a shock to him and virtually all the patients as they were made to face the hard reality that nurses and other health workers have gone on strike.

While expressing  his frustration, he said, “we were just told by the Chief Matron of this ward that they are going to be on strike tomorrow (Wednesday),  since my daughter has been on admission for over a week now, running to two weeks and she told us that starting from tomorrow, they will be going on strike, the news came to us as a shock and it’s just like the proverb, that says the beggar has no choice, actually, the ward was fully occupied before, that in fact it took us the grace of God to get a bed space. “when we were put on admission from SOPD but judging from what is on ground now, virtually, most patients have gone home, in fact we have to consult with our doctors on the next line of action given the strike action they are embarking on, but the consultant came around and looked at her and announced that her case is not an ordinary medical case that it is orthopedic issue. He also kindly agreed to be coming around to check on her. But

what will be their fate since doctors and nurses are going to be on strike”.

To add to the difficulty, these people are on National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) a programme designed by government to alleviate the pains of their workers or any other person that is enrolled in it. Even getting access to subsidized drugs could not be achieved as the NHIS pharmacy is under lock and key owing to the strike action.    The question on their lips were “what is going to be our fate”? The problem was also compounded by the fact that when drug prescription were written for them to get  in bulk, but now they have even run out of the drugs and couldn’t help the situation as the strike is still on. For most cases people have gone perhaps to consult private clinics except for the rare cases that are on ground.

Although, some doctors are said to be trying their best but it was obvious they can’t really cover up for the nurses who are missing in action. They can’t do better especially the doctor that was assigned to take care of patient were found wanting in their assigned new assignment. This poor attitude of the doctors has made most patients to devise new means of taking care of them pending the time the strike is called off.

According to a patient who doesn’t want her name in print, “they couldn’t come in the mid night so we had to change our IV to oral drugs, so we had to be giving the child our self, also monitoring the time especially when the doctors are not available. They said they have a lot of patients to take care of, that their job is to give prescription, that it is the job of the nurses to give the prescription as at when due but unfortunately the nurses are not here and the doctors can do only what they can do,” she said.

The Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr. Peter Alabi expressed sadness about the situation noting that one thing that matters in a hospital is to give full health care services to patients, which he said was not possible at the moment as every health worker responsible for the treatment have gone on strike.

He further explained that though the doctors are trying their best, the absence of others will create a backlog of work that will emanate to stress.

His words “we are not offering the services as it is meant to be now, there are doctors on ground but health is a team work, we need the services of all the other health workers to give the best to our patients so it is in our interest that the full complement of staff be on ground so we could offer the best of services to our patients.

Continuing, he said, “Obviously if you are two sharing responsibility and the other half is not there, you obviously will have to work extra hard to  get to the desired effect, so the people who are on ground will have to work much harder to do what ordinarily, you are not suppose to do in terms of responsibility. “We are not running at full capacity as I said, but we still have some patients in the ward at least, close to 200 are still in the wards, we are managing our out patients but some emergencies like taking emergencies surgeries, we may not be able to fully do them now  because it requires full complements to that job.

He concluded by saying that they cannot admit now but those on admission before the strike are being cared for, hopefully they’ll recover fast and get discharged.

The National Treasurer of JOHESU, who also doubled as the Chairman in charge of all Teaching Hospitals; Comrade Michael Luka Mallo vented his anger, when he referred to the Federal Government and  as being insincere to them.

Mallo said the immediate past Health Minister , Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu also played a deceitful role, making sure that agreement signed with the Union was never implemented, while the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) had its own even after embarking on a dangerous strike that left the country vulnerable to the emergency epidemic (Ebola).

He also accused the supervising Health Minister, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan of being indifferent to the plight of other health workers and has therefore avoided telling the Federal government the truth about the situation, “ I am highly disappointed with the government of the federal republic of Nigeria, especially, the supervisory Minister of Health, who is in a better position to tell the president the truth, but he fed the president with lies; that JOHESU’s demands have been met which is contrary.

“if our demands are met, then what are we on strike for ; are we lunatics, are we cowards, are we out of our senses, no we can’t just go on strike like that, so  that is that , let him come out and tell Nigerians and list what have been met if he is confident with what he has said.

Mallo also vowed that JOHESU will not call off its strike until demands are met, adding that, both the state and local government hospitals may soon join in the strike to press home its demand.


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