Ilorin, Kaduna, Sokoto, Lagos and Lokoja — Health services in public hospitals have been grounded following an indefinite strike action by health and medical workers who are seeking improved condition of services.
The strike action commenced 12 am Wednesday nationwide fafter the expiration of the 21-day ultimatum issued to the government to implement the judgment of the National Industrial Court (NIC) and the agreement reached by both parties recently.
However, skeletal services were being provided at various health facilities yesterday by resident doctors.
Several various unions, including the Medical and Health Workers' Union of Nigeria, National Association of Nurses and Midwives, Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutions are participating in the action.
Others are the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, and Nigerian Union of Pharmacists, Medical Technologists and Professions Allied to Medicine.
They are demanding for improved working conditions and facilities at the various health facilities across the country.
Specifically, the agitation included non-skipping of salary grade level CONHESS 10; the National Health Bill; consultancy and specialist allowances and call/shift duty and other professional allowances.
However, minister of health, Onyebuchi Chukwu yesterday said the Federal government did not implement the ruling of the National Industrial Court into its long-running dispute with health workers because it found the court's ruling on two major issues "confusing."
Relatives of some patients at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, are considering withdrawing their kin from the hospital, if the strike persists.
"The nurses are closer to the patients than the doctors and since the strike begun the relatives have had to observe the responsibilities of the nurses so that the patients do not lack care," said Mrs Sade Williams, a 37-year-old food vendor.
She added that the doctor attended to her normally, but she was unable to be admitted because of the strike.
Health workers at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) said they will join their colleagues today.
In Kaduna yesterday, the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric hospital discharged all its patients on admission as the medical and health workers of the hospital joined the on-going national strike.
Chairman of Medical and Health Workers Union of the hospital, Attule Emmanuel told Daily Trust about 100 patients had been on admission were discharged.
The health workers in Sokoto state also down tooled, our correspondent reports.
The state secretary, Medical and Health Workers union (MHUN), Mr Umar Kudu described the level of compliance by members of the union in the state as satisfactory.
The Sokoto state chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives ( NANNM) Mr Aminu Umar said all the members of the union except those at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital ( UDUTH) , Sokoto had joined the strike.
Our correspondent in Kano also report that activities were paralysed yesterday at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), leaving patients groaning.
Patients were moving out from the hospital as a result of the strike when Daily Trust visited. The General Out Patient Department (GOPD) was unusually quiet with only security operatives moving around, Daily Trust report.
Workers at the Dala Orthopaedic Hospital, Kano were still undecided whether to join the strike when Daily Trust gathered.
Also at the the Federal Medical Hospital, Lokoja, the strike action paralyzed activities as the usually bustling hospital was virtually deserted.
Our reporter observed that patients coming for medical attention were turned back at the gate by security guards. They were told that health workers are on strike and no one would attend to them while union officials were seen monitoring compliance.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has directed all medical doctors working in public health care institutions nationwide to remain at their duty posts and provide care to patients in spite the indefinite strike.
Dr. Osahon Enabulele said the National President of NMA said plans are being made by some hospital support staff to prevent doctors from providing healthcare services in public hospitals in the country.
He noted that while there is nothing wrong with striking workers to determine how best to actualize their demands, doctors will remain committed to their responsibility of offering quality healthcare services to the toiling and long deprived people of Nigeria.
Minister of health Onyebuchi Chukwu yesterday said the major confusion in the ten-point agreement reached between both sides since May 2012 is the union's insistence on skipping (allowing workers in line to promotion to principal officials to skip CONHESS 10) and extending the designation of consultants to others outside the medical profession in hospitals.
The ministry expected the court to decide whether government policy ruling skipping in any state establishment was right or wrong, said the minister.
"But the court said because they had been skipping before, what government should have done was to negotiate with them."
"It is a bit confusing," the minister said. "Where the court has agreed it is wrong for anybody outside the ministry of health to answer consultant, but if an error has been done by any agent of the ministry, they should allow that. It is a bit confusing too," he said.
Abdullateef Aliyu, Christiana T. Alabi, Rakiya A. Muhammad, Haruna Gimba Yaya, Chris Agabi and Usman A. Bello