Nigeria: Ekiti Risks Health Crisis As Healthcare Workers, Doctors Strike

Five days after doctors in the service of the Ekiti State Government embarked on an indefinite strike action, other healthcare workers in the state under the Joint Associations and Unions of Ekiti State Healthcare Workers are set to commence a three-day warning strike beginning from today

The union comprises the state chapters of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals which comprises pharmacists, among others.

In a letter dated July 3, and addressed to Governor Kayode Fayemi, the union notified the government of the commencement of the industrial action and why the decision became inevitable.

In the letter, titled, "Notification of 3 Day Warning Strike in Respect of Failure to Meet the Request of Healthcare Workers in the Public Health Sector," the union said series of ultimatums issued to the government and dated June 3, 8, and 24, were ignored by the administration.

Reasons for strike

In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the chairman of the union, Femi Ajoloko, accused the government of subjecting the healthcare workers to untold hardship, saying their sacrifices for the state have been taken for granted.

According to Mr Ajoloko, for the past 10 years, healthcare workers in the state have not been receiving statutory hazard allowance and other allowances including those for uniforms, skipping, among others.

He said; "We have arrears of unpaid salaries and the government has consistently been making deductions from our salaries without remitting the same to appropriate purses such as cooperative societies.

"We had been managing and enduring these challenges but even at this critical time, the state has refused to consider us by paying the covid-19 special hazard allowance. After a series of letters, when we met with government representatives on Monday, we were told the state does not have money."

The union's chairman said his members were distraught by the development and felt they were being taken for granted. He said the Monday meeting was attended by the head of service, senior special assistant on labour matters, commissioner for finance, and permanent secretary, ministry of health, among others.

"But the same government that is claiming that there is no money has been busy announcing political appointments as if the appointees will work for free. They now seem to have shifted focus on the isolation centres forgetting the fact that those of us at the primary healthcare facilities and general hospitals are more exposed to hazards."

In the letter, the union said if within the three days the government failed to meet the workers' demands, there would be no hesitation to embark on an indefinite strike.

The letter reads in part; "The leadership of the Joint Associations and Unions of Ekiti State Healthcare Workers frowned at the lukewarm attitude of the state government towards our request which has not been acceded to by the state government.

"Having exhausted all the necessary means and procedures to avert this impending strike to no avail, the leadership of above named associations and unions, therefore, painstakingly resolved and declared a three-day warning strike with effect from 12midnight on Monday, July 6, 2020, to press home our demands."

Meanwhile a nurse with one of the general hospitals in the state, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, has lamented what she described as an unfriendly working atmosphere in the state.

According to the source, as a level 12 officer on Step 3, she has been receiving the same salary as when she was on Level 9 Step 7.

"I have been promoted twice without financial benefits. I moved from level 9 to 10, and then to 12, yet I kept receiving the same salary and deductions are still not remitted. What kind of government is that? It is a sad development," the nurse said.

Govt reacts

The state government has said it would soon respond formally to the development.

In a short message shared with our reporter on WhatsApp, the commissioner for health, Mojisola Yaya-Kolade, said she would soon issue an official statement.

Mrs Yaya-Kolade's tarse response simply reads; "A statement will be issued."

This is the same response the commissioner gave when a similar inquiry was made on the ongoing doctors' strike in the state. But the statement is yet to be issued more than 72 hours after.

The doctors' strike

It would be recalled that the medical doctors under the aegis of the National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) covering more than 100 primary healthcare centres, 19 general hospitals and three specialist hospitals, have since Wednesday commenced indefinite strike in the state.

The doctors accused the government of subjecting them to what they described as unnecessary hardships through shortage of manpower, poor pay and arrears of unpaid allowances.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the government has insisted that it would only engage the workers when they call off the strike and return to their duty posts.

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