by Isi Esene
Only senior management staff and medical doctors were seen working on Wednesday in Federal Government-owned health institutions as health workers under the aegis of the Joint Heath Sector Unions (JOHESU) began a nationwide indefinite strike.
The striking workers vow not to return to work until their grievances are resolved. The Federal Government recently released a circular against the skipping of levels in the Consolidated Health Salary Scale, CONHESS 10, a move opposed by the health workers who demand that the status quo be maintained.
Health workers in all the federal government health establishments complied with the JOHESU directive. Workers in Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Ebute Metta, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) all adhered to the national union directive.
The acting national chairman, JOHESU, Felix Olukayode Faniran, said the strike will continue until the FG shifts ground.
He said, “We went on strike in May and the Presidency pleaded and after a meeting promised to attend to six out of the 10 demands and directed that four be sent to the technical committee. But by the 15th of July, nothing was done. When we got tired of the Ministry of Health, we decide to take it to the Industrial Court.
“While we were still waiting, the Minister issued circular that there would be no promotion from level 9 to 11, a benefit we have been enjoying since 1982. Why must this Minister want to reverse it? We wrote him two weeks ago to withdraw the circular but he refused. We decide to embark on strike till he withdraws the circular and address other issues.
“They have reneged on everything we asked for on the issue of CONHESS 10 and the status quo remains,” Faniran insisted.
Lagos State chairman of Health Workers Union, Ibe Stephen Nwokenta disclosed that the Union has already formed a monitoring group to ensure compliance by workers in all federal government health institutions in Lagos.
He said, “By tomorrow all the branch members will move in group to all the branches, hospitals and agencies to make sure that all workers comply with the directives.
“We will ensure that even they so called locum staff which is already against the labour laws stopped working. We will fight to the last. We will ensure that no body plays with our right. Any branch found defaulting will be shutdown totally.”
The strike action has seriously affected the delivery of healthcare services in the federal health institutions visited. In LUTH, reports say only a few registered out-patients were being attended to.
A patient in the hospital said, “We have been waiting since morning but only a few of us have been attended to, but we are hoping that they would also attend to us.”
Workers in Federal health institutions across the country had earlier petitioned the Presidency, urging it to prevail on the Minister of Health and management of Federal hospitals and other health centres to implement the July 16 agreement on staff welfare and other conditions of service to avoid industrial unrest.