Health workers’ strike: Abuja hospitals partially comply

There was partial observance in public hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of the industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU). JOHESU, the association of other health workers apart from medical doctors and dentists, on Tuesday midnight commenced an indefinite strike over failure by the federal government to meet up with the agreement it had with the union in September, last year.
The union is asking for salary adjustments, promotion arrears and improved work environment for its members, among others from the government. Premium Times on Wednesday visited some key hospitals in Abuja to observe the level of compliance to the industrial action. It was observed that while activities were grounded in some facilities, work continued in others.
Our correspondent who visited the Abuja National Hospital at 11:20 a.m. observed that it looked deserted. Only a handful of the personnel, especially doctors, were seen in the emergency wards and other areas attending to only a few patients. Attendance in most of the wards and departments remained scanty as at 11:40am. Patients in critical condition were evacuated to other hospitals as there were no hands to attend to them.
A woman in labour was seen struggling with her condition and nurses and midwives were not around to attend to her. The hospital’s spokesperson, Dr. Tayo Haastrup, confirmed that the other workers were on strike but said the hospital was open with doctors attending to emergency cases. “The JOHESU union here resolved to join the indefinite strike this morning in compliance with the decision of their national body.
however, the management of the National Hospital has arranged to make sure doctors who are not on strike are at their duty posts, the clinical areas are running with the doctors attending to their patients,” he said. He said patients in critical condition were being monitored and may be discharged as they would need constant attention of nurses.
“That the key people who do the running of the hospital are on strike does not mean we have closed shop and cannot see patients.” Haastrup, however, admitted that there “will be gross impact if the strike continues as admission of patients into the hospital will reduce.” “It is hard for the doctors to work without the nurses.” He further appealed to the striking union and the government to reach agreement so as to save the lives of patients already at risk. “If this strike persists, there is no way lives will not be lost,” he noted. Mariam Mohammed, whose son had a cancerous growth, decried the incessant strike in the health sector. She said government and health workers should quit playing with the lives of patients.
It was, however, a different situation at the Wuse District Hospital as normal activities continued in all the wards observed in the facility. The facility remained open with workers at their duty posts attending to patients who came in their numbers as at 12:30pm. An official said the hospital was yet to heed the strike call. “We are under the JOHESU union, we know about the strike but we are yet to be officially directed to down tools so for now we are working.” A director at the antenatal clinic forewarned of the impending dangers should the strike commence in the facility.
“People will die; we have patients at emergency ward. Pregnant women and nursing mothers need constant attention of nurses. Government should address this issue as a priority,” the director said. Meanwhile, the president of JOHESU, Josiah Biobelemoye, who announced the commencement of the strike, urged members at the state and local government health institutions on continuous sensitisation and mobilisation for possible solidarity strike, if government failed to attend to their demands. According to the union, health institutions in the states and local governments would join the strike if government did not meet their demands in two weeks.

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