BY VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG
HEALTH workers in Nigeria and other West African countries gathered recently in Tema, Ghana, to review the state of healthcare delivery in the sub-region.
Under the umbrella of West African Health Sector Unions Network, WAHSUN, at 9th plenary session, decried the worsening public healthcare delivery in the sub-region.
Delegates from Health Services Workers’ Union of Ghana TUC, Ghana Registered Nurses’ Association, Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, Sierra Leone Health Services Workers Union, National Private Sector Health Workers’ Union of Liberia and officials of the Public Services International Regional Office for English Speaking (East and West) Africa, who attended the meeting argued that the unfortunate healthcare crisis in the region was very worrisome and avoidable with adequate funding.
In a 12-point communiqué, by leaders of WAHSUN including Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President MHWUN, and Dora Etuk, NANNM, from Nigeria, said “WAHSUN-in-session was very much bothered by the fact that it is now very clear that countries in the sub-region will not meet the MDGs target, particularly with regards to health. This is very worrisome and avoidable with adequate funding for health care delivery.
“WAHSUN-in-session noted that most countries in the West African sub-region are nowhere close to meeting the 15% budgetary allocation for health as stated in the 2001 Abuja Declaration of African Heads of States. WAHSUN-in-session thus categorically reiterates its demand for compliance with this declaration towards revamping public health care delivery and thus helping to save the millions of lives.”
Legislation on decent work
Delegates considered legislation on Decent Work, in general, as a step in the right direction as such could help in ensuring qualitative improvements on working conditions where and when this is genuinely done.
The communiqué noted that “WAHSUN-in-session however considers the formulation of the Decent Work Act by the Liberian government, as being questionable and contrary to the spirit of the Decent Work Agenda as enumerated by the International Labour Organisation. This is because it fails to cover civil servants and maritime workers, who comprise 60% of the country’s labour movement.
“WAHSUN-in-session thus calls for an amendment of the law for it to be universally applied to workers in Liberia. WAHSUN-in-session viewed the expansion of private sector delivery of health services with concern. This situation is largely a reflection of the cuts in social spending, particularly for public health which started in the 1980s with the Structural Adjustment Programmes.
“WAHSUN-in-session while calling for increased funding of public health noted that even when provided through private enterprise, health services are public services. The only way to make sure that private sector health providers inculcate this notion is by strengthening union presence in private health facilities, which are unfortunately, quite notorious for their anti-union stance.”
“WAHSUN member-unions thus committed themselves to intensive campaigns at organising health workers in the private sector, both in defence of health workers, and in pursuit of qualitative health care delivery in general. WAHSUN acknowledges that the challenge of ensuring qualitative health care delivery for the citizens of countries in the West African sub-region would require the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the sector and a re-definition of the dominant paradigm guiding policy.
“Towards placing the common man, woman and child at the heart of health policy and practices, WAHSUN will embark on a 3-year Campaign for Quality Health for All in West Africa, from 2013. This campaign will equally be a major platform of advocacy for improving on issues that militate against qualitative health care delivery such as: inadequate and poor state of equipment and logistics, including standard medicines; unacceptable patient-health worker ratios and; violence at the workplace.”
Poverty in Nigeria
Lamenting the growing poverty level in Nigeria, the communiqué noted that WAHSUN was bothered by the seeming paradox of increase in both growth and poverty in Nigeria.
It said “While its GDP virtually doubled from $170.7 billion in 2005 to $413.4 billion in 2011, the poverty rate rose from 54% in 2004 to 69%, in 2011 with that for 2012 estimated at 72%, by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.
This situation has led to heightened disillusionment and increase in the incidence of social vices. WAHSUN considered this state of affairs as arising from the mono-cultural reliance of the country’s economy on the oil sector as well as the legendary corrupt character of the country’s ruling elite.”
“WAHSUN-in-session thus calls for an alternative model of economic development in the country which will place industrialisation and re-distributive social policy at its core. Further, the fight against corruption in the country must be hinged on building alternative social institutions which rest on trade unions and progressive civil society organisations that are genuinely interested in making sure that corrupt elite in the country are duly checkmated.”
The communiqué added that he 9th plenary session ended with a rededication of WAHSUN affiliates to deepening the growth and development of the Network and contributing significantly to the improvement of public health care delivery and the betterment of the lives of the millions of people in the sub-region.