By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
THE organized labour on Thursday renewed its opposition on the proposal by the Federal Government to concession the 22 federal teaching hospitals in the country.
The organized labour told the government that health is the foundation of development around the world and that it should not be for profit.
Speaking at the 2019 Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Nurses Week/Scientific workshop taking place in Abuja, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said that if the government was allowed to concession the teaching hospitals, it could lead to exorbitant cost of medical treatment beyond the capacity of majority of Nigerians.
Wabba, at the workshop organized by the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, FCT, Council said that what the goverment should do was to invite private sector to invest, establishing new hospitals and not taking over existing public hospitals.
He faulted the recent recommendations by the Infrastructure Concession, Regulatory Commission, ICRC, that the 22 Teaching Hospitals in country should be concessioned, noting that the previous attempt to Privatise the National Truama Centre in Gwagwalada, Abuja was thwarted by the health workers union.
According to him, “For us to attain universal health coverage, certainly nurses who are the backborne of the preventive and curative medical services must be given the place in policy development.
“I am very happy that this year’s FCT Nurses week is taking place at this auspicious time when are being challenged by a lot of policies that by my estimation, and with our experience having travelled round the world, may not actually deliver quality health services. In fact it will alienate more and more people.
“One of such policies is the recent decision by the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) saying that it has granted the Federal Ministry of Health the nod to concession 22 tertiary health institutions. This is unacceptable.”
The NLC President said that at the inception of the present administration, there were proposals for privatization of Healthcare but President Muhammadu Buhari openly stated that he was against the privatization of healthcare in the country.
He said, “But you can see that whereas they cannot pass through the door as the door is locked, they are coming through the backdoor that is unacceptable.”
Wabba explained that teaching hospital plays three major roles; teaching, research and then the provision of tertiary health services.
“If you privatise or concession the tertiary health institutions, what do you hope to achieve? Because the two important components of research and teaching will certainly suffer.”
He said making health care for profit generation in a country like Nigeria where the inequality gap was so wide between the rich and the poor, it would negatively affect affect many poor citizens that would not be able assess it.
He said: “Private hospitals should be for the rich while public hospitals should left for us the majority who form about 80% percent of Nigerians.”
Wabba reminded those pushing for the concession of the health institutions that the primary duty of goverment is security and welfare of the people, adding no goverment can afford to ignore the provision of good and affordable healthcare for its people.
In a welcome address, the FCT Chairman of Nurses Association, Comrade Deborah Yusufu lamented the poor state of funding and facilities in most of the public hospitals in the capital city.
She pleaded with authorities to urgently release funds and clear the arrears of salaries and allowance owed health workers.
In a goodwill message, President of MHWUN, Biobelemoye Josiah, said that if healthcare services were going to remain affordable for the poor ones, goverment must retain its stake in public-owned hospitals and not privatise them.
Josiah described as fraudulent, attempt by some persons to railroad the federal government into accepting to concession the teaching hospitals under the guise that it would to a better health sector.
He said that members of the unions in the health sector will begin consultations with a view to forging a common front to oppose the concession plan.
“They have come again with the same sing-song again that it is only when they privatise that their managerial skill will better the system. Sincerely speaking, they want to cover-up the over 35 years of mess in the health sector,” he said.