Abuja — The Joint Health Sector Union s and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU) has threatened to shut down federal government hospitals as it plans to embark on a nationwide strike on September 20, 2017.
This is coming as the meeting of the executives of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend the ongoing strike has been extended to continue midnight yesterday to this morning.
JOHESU in a letter titled: 'Looming Nationwide Industrial Action: Request for Audience,' and signed by its National Chairman, Joy Josiah, and the National Secretary, Florence Ekpebor, asked for audience with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday and today.
The group demanded that if the federal government refused to address its agitations earnestly, it would have no option but to shut down health care facilities nationwide.
According to JOHESU, the industrial action was due to government failure to meet its demands, which include payment of arrears of specialist allowances and upgrade of their members due for promotion.
The group further threatened that planned strike tagged: 'Operation Alligator Bite', would be more severe than the controversial 'Operation Python Dance' that the Nigerian army launched in the South-east.
Part of the letter read: "We write on behalf of the leadership of Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals, a body which makes up about 95 per cent of health workers and health care providers, to seek for your intervention in the protracted demands and agitations between JOHESU and the federal government since 2014 by granting us urgent audience yesterday, at 10a.m. or any other date not later than a week before September 30.
"We are compelled to seek your intervention so as to avert indefinite industrial action in the health industry. We are aware of the sensitive and important nature of our service to human lives, hence our proactive measure in prevention rather than curative.
"JOHESU is aware of your recent laudable role in intervening and resolving of the issues of the medical doctors while they were on strike.
"While thanking you for your kind approval to meet with us on September 13, accept the assurances of our best wishes.
JOHESU makes over 95 per cent of health workers and health care providers in Nigeria, meaning that all government hospitals would be closed down should they carry out their threat.
In a related development, the meeting of the executives of NARD to review government's offers to the striking doctors with a view to call off the strike at 11p.m. yesterday.
This is coming after Tuesday meeting that ended wednesday morning was deadlocked. The strike has continued despite marathon meeting and reaching agreement with the federal government.
Meaanwhile, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has appealed to the leadership of the JOHESU to prevail on their members to shelve their planned strike.
Adewole in a statement yesterday by the Head of Media and Public Relations, Ministry of Health, Mrs. Boade Akinola, said government has continued its negotiation with the union and hoped that issues in contention would be addressed through consensus.
He urged the union to consider the interest of Nigerians who are the ultimate victims of the strike.
The minister assured the JOHESU leadership of the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to the wellbeing of all Nigerians, including the welfare of stakeholders in the health sector.