Declaration of an industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) was received yesterday with mixed feelings by some health workers in Abuja hospitals.
Although all health workers, who spoke with our correspondent, expressed dismay over government’s attitude towards their welfare and safety, some had reservations with the tactics deployed by their representatives, while others applauded the move to down tools. As at the time of visit to the National Hospital, health workers were all on their duty posts diligently carrying out their assignments.
However, all work was brought to a halt about 10am, after they were briefed by some JOHESU officials. Health workers at Kubwa, Asokoro and Nyanya General Hospitals were also doing their jobs. All sections were fully operational as at yesterday afternoon, as patients were being well attended to.
A nurse at Kubwa General Hospital, Priscilla Atunbo, said although the strike was a welcome development, they were still awaiting the go ahead from appropriate quarters in the hospital to join their colleagues. She said: “Government has been toying with us; they don’t take us seriously so we should go on strike. As you can see, we are still working, we have not been addressed.”
Folakemi Abbas, who works in Asokoro Hospital, said even though she was against the government’s attitude towards workers, the union should have exercised a little more patience till after the meeting expected to hold today before declaring strike. She said: “I can’t say why we have not been addressed but some of us are afraid government may decide to enforce no work no pay rule.
The union leaders should have waited till tomorrow before asking us to stay back at home. “I know my allegiance is to my union but government has declared this strike as illegal and we all know what that means.” Rose Agi, who works at Kubwa General Hospital, said the union might find itself boxed in a difficult corner, if wisdom was not applied.
She said: “When I listened to the news, the part where Federal Government condemned the strike, calling it illegal, I wasn’t too comfortable. “I understand an ultimatum was given which expired yesterday, but I also know that they were already into discussions with government and even signed a document.”
Meanwhile, the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has said the ongoing strike could affect negatively, the gains the country had achieved in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking on the floor of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, he appealed to JOHESU to shelve the strike and continue to attend to the health needs of the populace. He said:
“The PTF views the recent declaration of industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) as rather unfortunate and capable of reducing our gains and endangering more loss of lives.
“We, therefore, call on JOHESU to stand up to be counted at this critical moment because a continuation of the strike could jeopardise the small gains made in the fight against the virus and the efforts to transform our health systems. The Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment has assured that every effort is being made to resolve all issues and have JOHESU call its members back to work.”
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who also appealed to the health workers to return to their duty posts, said the ministry was doing all within its power to address the issues under contention, to ensure safety of everyone in need of healthcare services in public hospitals.
He said: “The position of the Ministry of Health is that strikes by healthcare workers jeopardise the lives of citizens, especially at such times of global health emergencies as now.
Nigeria needs the services of all her health workers, to control COVID-19 spread. Issues around allowances are multi-sectoral and have always been solved with negotiations, no matter how long it took.
“I acknowledge the commitment of health workers who continue to man the frontlines in the fight against this disease and use this opportunity to appeal to JOHESU to suspend their industrial action, not to erode gains we have since made in health care delivery.
The Federal Ministry of Health is doing all within its power to expedite processes that address the bones of contention.”