Daily Trust (Abuja)

24 January 2014

Nigeria: Health Workers' Strike Hits Hospitals

Bauchi, Abuja, Makurdi, Lafia, Kano, Yenagoa, Lagos and Ado-Ekiti — Hospital pharmacies remained shut while nurses were absent from duty posts as the three-day warning strike by health workers in the country entered the second day yesterday.

Mostly federal hospitals and tertiary health institutions are affected. The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) which comprise at least four sets of health workers and the Assembly of All Healthcare Professionals are protesting what they called "acts of industrial violations, injustice and deprivations."

Dispensing bays, where patients get drugs at the National Hospital was shut throughout yesterday. Loading bays were also empty and only a few patients loitered the usually busy hospital corridors, crowded by student doctors.

A member of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives told Daily Trust that the strike was under way and in full implementation. The warning strike came after seven days of working grace granted by JOHESU and the Assembly of All Healthcare Professionals ran out this week. The union said it was angered when an appraisal meeting between both sides on January 16 showed that the health ministry had virtually not implemented any of the issues in contention. They criticized government's position on the appointment of a surgeon-general.

Health services in hospitals and primary health centres are badly affected in Bauchi State where the Commissioner for Health, Dr Sani Malami, said doctors and other volunteers were working but medical and health workers were not. Malami said the government had planned the best way to handle the situation by providing essential services in order to reduce their hardship. Relatives of Patients were preparing to leave the hospital for private ones.

Activities in some public hospitals in Benue State yesterday remained paralytic following the strike. Our correspondent who visited Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi observed skeletal services being carried out only by management staff, doctors and security men on duty while the supporting personnel stayed away. Media Assistant to the Chief Medical Director, Alex Ohemu, said doctors on duty were doing their best despite the absence of supporting staffs. The state University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) did not join the strike, according to head of Public Relations, Cephas Hough.

In Nasarawa State, hospitals including the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Keffi and the state owned Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) remained shut for the second day yesterday. DASH has become a ghost of its former self as health workers are away from duty posts. At the children's wards of the hospital, including the emergency ward, a few remaining patients could be seen trying to leave.

Activities in Kano hospitals were also paralyzed yesterday. Our correspondent who visited major health institutions in Kano metropolis reports that only skeletal services went on as only medical doctors attended to patients, At the National Orthopaedic Hospital and the General Psychiatric Hospital, Dawanau, the strike paralyzed activities as both places were deserted.

Our correspondent reports from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State that patients are receiving medical attention from doctors at the Federal Medical Centre where the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Ebitimi Nicholas Etebo, said management entered into an arrangement with some private partners to fill the gap created by the striking workers. Besides this, he said all activities were going on in the areas the hospital outsourced services, saying, "In the areas where we have outsourcing like the provision of light, security, catering, all those services are going on despite the strike"

The strike wasn't as effective in Lagos State as normal medical activities were on at the major government hospitals in the state. A visit to the Lagos State Teaching Hospital LASUTH, Ikeja and Lagos University Teaching hospital LUTH, Idiaraba, Lagos didn't indicate any major strike was action in place. The administrative session of the both teaching hospitals were seen sorting out patients' cards for consultation while the pharmaceutical unit was fully operational as nurses and midwives attended to patients. The National President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mr. Olumide Akintayo, said even though all pharmaceutical personnel nationwide were expected to be part of the strike, their personnel would always be in A and B units which are the accident and emergency sessions.

Judd- Leonard Okafor, Ahmed Mohammed, Hope Abah, Hir Joseph, Haruna Gimba Yaya, Chris Eze, Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen, Lagos, & Doyin Adebusuyi, Ado-Ekiti

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