By Anayo Okoli – Enugu
A cross-section of Enugu residents has descended on the medical personnel at the State-owned Enugu State University of Technology Teaching Hospital, ESUTH-Parklane hospital, for embarking on strike at a period the whole world is battling the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
The residents, some, retired medical personnel, including professors of medicine, wondered why the doctors, nurses and other allied medical workers chose “a critical and dangerous period when COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the whole world to harass and blackmail the Government for issues that have been outstanding for several years”.
According to retired medical staff of the teaching hospital who pleaded that his name is left out, “my colleagues, particularly consultants, did not do well. Yes, there is a need to improve the welfare of the workers, but it is always discussed when the atmosphere is conducive, not situations like this.
“Using a period like the COVID-19 pandemic, when the whole world is doing everything to battle the scourge is not only unjust but sheer wickedness and blackmail. It shows some of them don’t want to work and save a life but only interested in money. It is simply a wrong period”, he said.
Recall that doctors at the hospital, despite a subsisting court order against them embarking on strike, had gone on strike and Governor
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in order not to have any ugly situation in the situation, approved their welfare demand.
But his gesture triggered off protests from other health workers, particularly the nurses who claimed that they did not have personal protective equipment to battle the COVID-19, a claim the hospital management and the Government dismissed.
It was later discovered that their annoyance was the welfare package approval given to the doctors.
As if that is not enough, other health workers joined in the agitation which residents are not happy about, saying that timing smacked of irresponsibility.
Vanguard learned that the action of workers did not go down well with the governor who has done lot to upgrade the teaching hospital, including securing accreditations for its programmes as well as for those of schools of nursing and other health and educational institutions in the State.
Meanwhile, the workers were taking these actions against a pending court order restraining them from embarking on strike.
It was learned that there is a subsisting perpetual court injunction restraining them from going on strike which was secured by the Sullivan Chime administration as well as another order secured on March 2nd, 2020, by the Ugwuanyi administration restraining them from embarking on strike.
They were said to have ignored these Court orders from the Industrial Arbitration Court and continued to harass the government with threats of strike.
However, Vanguard was informed that Governor Ugwuanyi, having exhausted his patience with the ESUTH health workers and having done a lot to improve the institution, decided to wield the big stick.
He was said to have summoned the leadership of the all the workers’ union in the hospital, including some consultants, to a meeting in his office Wednesday evening, where he told them clearly that he would approach the State House of Assembly to close the hospital as they did not want to work and only interesting in blackmailing the government while people out there needed health care.
Seeing how serious the governor was, the workers backed down and agreed to continue to work which made the governor to temporarily suspend his action and see if they genuinely want to continue to work.