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Strikes, strife and sighs for health in 2013

By SOLA OGUNDIPE
FOR the Nigerian health sector, 2013 opened with a strike. The year is also closing with a health sector strike. The outgoing year was serially punctuated with nerve-wracking industrial dispute often culminating in protracted strikes to protest often irreconciliable issues at stake.

While the strikes lasted,  aggrieved parties stayed away from work, effectively paralysing medical activities in hospitals.
There has been trouble for the nation’s  house of health almost every step of the way.  All through the year, numerous incidences of energy-sapping wranglings were undeniable pointers of  deep-seated disharmony among health professionals.

Close observers see the development as an omen, systematically tearing the industry apart.
The story about health sector strikes this year is not  different from  previous years. It is the same old tale Nigerians have heared over and over in years past.

From poor conditions of service of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians and other health workers, to inadequate funding, outdated or absent infrastructure and equipment,  general deterioration of the sector  – the list is endless.

For the troubled sector, a significant issue Nigerians had to cope with was the obvious  deterioration of health services especially at the tertiary level of care which alleging hospitals  have become mere consulting clinics.
The  industrial relation atmosphere in the health sector is roundly described as the worst in recent times, moreso with total absence of a harmonious working relationship between medical practitioners on onw hand and between health all  health professionals and government on the other.

On Wednesday December 18,   the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, made good its threat to embark on strike when it called out its members on a 5-day warning strike to protest series of issues culminating in “injustice” to doctors.

On Sunday December 22, just as the warning strike was wrapping up, the NMA urged hapless Nigerians to brace up for a full blown strike as from January 6, 2014, even as pharmacists, under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, threatened to team up with the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, to embark on yet another strike on December 28, 2013.

Health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, are  still  spoiling for a showdown. Grouse of the workers includes implementation of the May 10, 2012 Collective Agreement  that caters for promotion of members under the controversial CONHESS 14 to 15,  among plethora of issues.

On March 18, 2013,    JOHESU declared a nine-point trade dispute upon which it issued a 15-day ultimatum to Federal Government to implement the May 10, 2012 Collective Agreement, among others.
Spirited moves  to  resolve the protracted industrial dispute at the highest levels hit the rocks.

Earlier on in the year, JOHESU, backed by the Nigeria Labour Congress demanded to have consultants among their non-medical staff members, the payment of specialist, call duty/shift and other professional allowances as enjoyed by doctors.

A shadow of uncertainty continues to hang over fortunes of the sector even as the various groups continue threatening to  “perpetuate unrest. Who will save the sector from imminent collapse?


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