November 19, 2014

Strike: Health workers withdraw emergency services

Strike: Health workers withdraw emergency services

…Patients discharge selves

By Chioma Obinna, Gabriel Olawale & Gloria Sunday

Lagos — RIPPLE effects of the indefinite strike embarked upon by health workers under the auspices of Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, took its toll on Federal Government-owned healthcare institutions in Lagos yesterday, as several patients including the ones in critical conditions were forced to discharge themselves following paralysis of medical and clinical services.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government team and leaders of JOHESU will today meet in Abuja over the ongoing strike.

ABANDONED: ABOVE: The children ward of Agbowa Primary Health Centre, Ikorodu, Lagos, yesterday.

ABANDONED: ABOVE: The children ward of Agbowa Primary Health Centre, Ikorodu, Lagos.

Also, the Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Issa Aremu, has urged the Federal Government to dialogue with officials of Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, to end the ongoing strike by its members.

As early as 8:30am when Vanguard visited the hospitals, the only olive branch, which is the emergency services rendered yesterday, (Monday) by the striking health workers were withdrawn even as patronage from patients dipped significantly.

From the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idiaraba, to the Federal Neuro- Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Ebute Meta, National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, among others, patients were left unattended.

In the various hospitals visited, all Accident and Emergency, A&E, departments were under lock and key. At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH and Psychiatric hospital, the security men strategically took up position within the immediate vicinity of the medical emergency ward of the health institutions.

Findings by our reporters, who went round the facilities revealed that all the wards in the hospitals were almost deserted, except for few patients on admission.
At LUTH, both the female medical, male surgical wards and post natal paediatric department were devoid of activities. All the entrances to the wards were guarded by security personnel. A few patients who were still in the wards were seen discharging themselves.

A relation of one of the patients, who identified herself as Mrs. Ibikunle Idowu narrated to Vanguard the hardship she had been through as a result of the ongoing strike.
According to her, if not for God’s intervention, she wouldn’t know what would have happened to her three-year-old child.

Idowu, who spoke in Yoruba said: “My baby always cry all night before we brought her here. I don’t know the name of what she is suffering from since they called it in English language and I did not understand it. But all I know is that since they started attending to her we have noticed an improvement. But I don’t know our fate now they are on strike.”

The situation was more pathetic at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi. Right from the emergency ward, all offices remained under lock and key since Monday.
When our reporter arrived at the Male Ward G, out of the 28 beds in the Ward, only eight patients remained. Further investigations by Vanguard revealed that most of the patients left on their own.

In a chat with some of the remaining patients, they claimed they had no money to go to private hospitals which is why they are still in the hospital.
One of the patients, who spoke in anonymity told Vanguard that since the strike started, no single doctor has entered the ward.

He said he has already made an arrangement with a relation who comes to the hospital to dress the wound on his leg.
“I would have preferred to go for treatment in another hospital but since I did not have enough money, I have made arrangement with a relative who comes here to assist me with the dressing of the wound.”

Another patient, who refused to give his name for fear of being victimised said: “I have decided to do the dressing of my leg myself. Although, I will admit I am not doing the dressing the way it supposed to be done, but I am left with no choice.”

He further lamented lack of portable water to drink and take their bath. “To get mere sachet water to buy had become difficult, so we have to task ourselves and raise money to buy buckets that our relatives use in fetching water for us.”

Another patient, whose left leg and right hand was seriously injured said after waiting for some days now, he had resolved with his family member to leave the hospital today.
Asked what the hospital management is doing about their various complaints, he said: “They came this morning and said that if we did not leave the ward they will force us to leave because the hospital rule do not permit any patient to stay in the hospital once there is strike.”

Also at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, the skeletal services put in place at the emergency department yesterday (Monday) was completely withdrawn. Both the out-patient and medical laboratory departments were shadow of themselves. Although the entrance to each of the departments was opened but no single staff was on sight except the security personnel.

Meanwhile, the striking health workers have vowed continued the strike until their demands are met.

The Federal Government team and the leadership of the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU will tomorrow meet in Abuja over the ongoing nationwide strike.

Disclosing this in a telephone chat with Vanguard yesterday, Chairman, LUTH chapter of Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research and Allied Institutes, SSAUTHRAI, Kehinde Adegoke, said the meeting will have in attendance officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and Labour and Productivity, Accountant General of the Federation, Head of Services and executive members of the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU.

Adegoke, who was optimistic that the meeting would produce a better outcome said the outcome of the meeting will determine the shape of the strike.
According to him, workers are ready to return to work if the government should do the needful.

“We hope that the meeting will be favourable to the Union. If it is favourable we will assess it and get back to the government. If the government is reasonable enough and show political will and do the needful, we will go back to the hospital and take care of our patients.”

In a related development, the Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Issa Aremu, has urged the Federal Government to dialogue with officials of Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Ilorin, Aremu urged the Federal Government to respect labour laws.

He warned the government not to carry out its threat of no work, no pay against the workers, adding that it could instigate them to prolong the strike.

Aremu identified lack of respect for collective agreement on the part of the government as a major problem in the public sector.

Aremu noted that the diligence of workers in the health sector played a pivotal role in making Nigeria being declared Ebola free by the World Health Organisation, WHO.
He said the diligence of workers in the sector saved Nigeria from being stigmatized globally, adding “Government should stop chasing the shadows by saying it will not pay the striking workers. Rather it should assure the union to return back to dialogue and respect the agreement it had entered into with the union.

“The solution to the strike is for government to withdraw the threat of no work, no pay and return to the path of collective agreement to resolve the ongoing strike and other industrial crises,” Aremu said.