May 18, 2018

Resolving the health workers’ strike

Resolving the health workers’ strike

THE current indefinite strike action by health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, is an unwanted, negative development for us.

Since April 18, when the strike was called, critical health services at all Federal Government health institutions in the country, including federal medical centres, specialist hospitals, orthopaedic hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, state general hospitals and local government health institutions, among others, have been paralysed.

At the onset, the strike was limited to the Tertiary Health Institutions but was later extended to the secondary health institutions in all states of the Federation.

JOHESU is the umbrella body for associations of health workers, comprising nurses, pharmacists, laboratory scientists, physiotherapists and other key health personnel apart from medical doctors and dentists.

The group said it embarked on the strike over failure of the Federal Government to honour an agreement signed with the Union in September 2017 for improved working conditions and adjustment of salary structure.

JOHESU commenced the strike nationwide to agitate for the upward adjustment of the Consolidated Health Sector Salary Structure, CONHESS, and to resolve to restore relativity between the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS, that is enjoyed by medical doctors in the country.

Accusations and counter-accusations by JOHESU and the Federal Government following the collapse of talks and negotiations have further fuelled the strike and prevented compromise.

This latest action has precipitated negative repercussions for the nation’s healthcare sector. It has disrupted healthcare services, fuelled complications in patient health and increased financial burdens on families and even caused deaths of patients  that need not die. The collapse of health facilities, loss of confidence in the health system, brain drain and spread of infectious diseases are just few of the other undesirable effects of frequent health workers’ strikes.

The level of uncertainty engendered by the strike is palpable in view of the stalemate between the Union and Federal Government.

We call on government to address this agitation for benefit packages and privileges for all health workers with all the seriousness it deserves. It is the ordinary Nigerian that suffers from doctors’ strikes. Our leaders simply hop abroad to access quality healthcare when they are sick. It does not affect them or their families.

In the face of the rising tide of communicable disorders and the renewed threat of infectious diseases such as Lassa Fever and the Ebola Virus Disease in the West African sub-region, a permanent solution is desirable to address the country’s worsening healthcare indices.

Stemming the tide of strikes and other forms of unrest within the health sector has been a sore point for far too long. Nothing short of a speedy resolution and comprehensive system overhaul are desirable to restore peace and stability to the sector.