Frank Ikpefan, Abuja, AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna, Uja Emmanuel, Makurdi, Emma Elekwa, Onitsha, Chris Njoku, Owerri and Segun Showunmi, Ibadan
THE Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) strike on Monday paralysed medical services at government hospitals across the country.
Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige said last night the Federal Government was addressing the issues on the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) strike.
The health workers started a nationwide strike on Monday.
The union’s leadership directed the union members to down tools until the government addresses their demands.
When our correspondent asked him last night what the government was doing about the strike, Ngige said: “I am in a meeting on that. We are handling it.”
At the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the entrance gate was locked while the health workers and security personnel abandoned work.
JOHESU Chairman at UCH, Dr. Adeolu Ali, told our correspondent that the demands of the health workers included payment of the shortfall arising from the implementation of COVID-19 special inducement and hazard allowance and payment of withheld salaries of JUTH members.
Others are: payment of the above allowances to union members at the FMC in Owerri, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) as well as April and May 2018 salaries.
Ali also listed other demands as adjustment of CONHESS salary structure, implementation of ADR consent judgment, structural and infrastructural decay in government hospitals.
The union leader said the salaries of members were adjusted twice last year while others’ remained stagnant.
He accused the government of discriminating in the payment of COVID-19 allowance, despite the fact that all health workers were exposed to the pandemic.
“We want to plead with Nigerians to bear with us. This strike is necessary for our demands to be met. We have been pushed to the wall. The government had an agreement with us in September 2017, May 2018, and there was a court judgment in December 2018. But all are yet to be implemented.
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“We understand the plight of Nigerians; that is why we embarked on a seven-day strike. If not for that, we would have embarked on total strike. We know that UCH remains a rallying point for patients in this state and other parts of Nigeria.
“We are law-abiding, and what we are doing is just a warning strike. This is going to expire next Monday. We are going to pursue our demands lawfully.
“We don’t have any problem with the UCH management because this is a national issue between the Federal Government and the leaders of our union at the national level.”
Members of the Anambra State chapter of the union yesterday joined the warning strike with a threat that they will not return to work until their allowances are paid.
Their action paralysed activities at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) in Nnewi.
JOHESU Chairman at the NAUTH, Mr. Ikenna Anahalu, regretted that the Federal Government allegedly reneged on the agreement it reached with the union.
He said: “There were preferential treatment in the handling of issues that affected our members’ well-being.
“The Federal Government must release funds to pay the arrears of differentials for 2015, 2016 and 2017 promotion allowances to our members.”
The union leader said the payment of April and May 2018 was still withheld and that government must pay up.
Anahalu was accompanied by the union’s Secretary, Charles Nwoye; Public Relations Officer (PRO), Edochie Peter and Treasurer, Nwobodo Hygenius.
The union members at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owerri, the Imo State capital, also shunned their duty posts.
The State JOHESU Chairman Uche Okafor told The Nation that “the centre is showdown, following the one-week warning strike by the national body of the union”.
“We have already sensitised our members to get prepared as soon as the Federal Government fails to reach an agreement with the national body. We will close down all our offices in the state,” he said.
At the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Kaduna, the union members also abandoned their work.
The union’s branch Chairman, Atule Emmanuel, frowned at government’s alleged discrimination and unfair treatment of JOHESU members in the hands of the Ministry of Health in favor of medical doctors.
He said the union would go on a full-fledged strike, if the government fails to meet their demands within the stipulated time.
Also, services at the National Eye Centre and National Eye Care Centre, both in Kaduna, were skeletal as only other health workers attended to patients.
The Federal Medical Centre (FMC) and Apir Annex, both in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, were deserted on Monday.
When The Nation visited both places, the health workers had locked their offices and left for their homes.
Only patients and their relatives were seen lamenting in the wards.
The main annex at Wadata, which houses the office of the Chief Medic Director (CMD), Dr. Peteru Inundu, had only security personnel at the main entrance.
A patient’s relative, Peter Aza, told The Nation that he had exhausted his money on his sick mother and could not take her to a private hospital.
No JOHESU official in the state could be reached for comments last night.