By Chioma Obinna
As the nationwide strike embarked by the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations, AHPA, entered third day, hospital services were disrupted across Fedetal government hospitals in Lagos.
At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, while some patients that sought care at the tertiary facility received treatment, some patients could not access services following the industrial action which prevented them from getting treatment.
For a mother of a seven-year old boy who visited the hospital on referral on Friday due to an ear ailment, her son wasn’t seen by a doctor as health workers at the record officials that should register the patient to see a doctor were among the striking workers.
A nurse at the Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) clinic told us to come back on a future date after the strike, but wasn’t sure when the indefinite strike would be over,” she lamented.
Although, another female patient at the Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G Clinic) said she was seen by a doctor, she couldnt do the laboratory test the doctor recommended; hence, she was similarly told to come back on a future date. The experience was a mixture of some patients were attended to by medical doctors, some were denied services and yet some got incomplete services due to the limitations from the strike.
As a male patient at the Surgical Outpatient clinic told journalists including Vanguard, that none of the patients at the centre was certain of being seen by a doctor.
He described the situation as a game of chance.
“Present your medical challenges to those on duty and if you are fortunate to be seen by a doctor, you thank God. If it goes the other way it’s not just your fate, but sad as well.”
Reacting to the skeletal services available to patients, the Chairman of MHWUN, LUTH Branch, Comrade Adeyinka Adewale who doubles as Secretary of JOHESU in LUTH, said it is JOHESU members only that are on strike, the doctors are working, so are nurses that have been dismembered from JOHESU. Apart from doctors and nurses other locum staff are also working, he said.
“Even with the fact that there are skeletal services here and there, they still cannot do everything by themselves. So, definitely the effect of JOHESU members downtooling is still being felt.
“When the doctor writes tests for a patient to be run, where will the patient take the investigation to? He takes it to the lab that’s shut down because of the strike. I’m sure that if he needs to get drugs from the pharmacy, he cannot access that service due to the ongoing strike. Besides if the patient needs a physiotherapist’s attention, that cannot be done by a doctor. If you look at these you will know that the strike will affect general service and the effect will be felt.”
On when this strike will be called off, Adewale said, it is actually indefinite. “We know the day we started but government will determine the day we stop. If the government answers us today, the strike ends today.”
According to him, strike is the last option for every labour group to apply when their employer is actually not looking at their side. “That is what has brought us here. If the government can call members of JOHESU to address our demands we would not be where we are now. I don’t know if a new development has started today but as at now, the government is yet to engage JOHESU meaningfully.” Adewale urged the incoming federal government to address the demands of JOHESU so as to end the debacle.
The health workers under The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) had issued a 15- day strike ultimatum to the Federal Government effective from May 10.
JOHESU’s acting National Secretary, Comrade Mathew Ajorutu who signed on behalf of the national chairman, said the major demands of the two associations include adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) as agreed in terms of settlement (TOS) of September 30, 2017.
The union is also calling for the payment of a peculiar allowance to health workers under the aegis of JOHESU/ AHPA as well as the immediate and unconditional implementation of the Consultant Cadre circular of Pharmacists in all federal health institutions (FHIs). Other demands include the payment of all withheld salaries of JOHESU/AHPA members in Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), LUTH and their withheld April and May 2018 salaries.
Also being demanded is the speedy adjustment of Retirement Age from 60 to 65 years; the exclusion of some health workers in the payment of new hazard allowance and payment of COVID 19 Allowance balance.
JOHESU/AHPA is a conglomerate of four registered trade Unions which include Medical and Health workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institution(NASU).