Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Recently, for three days; February 11 to 13, patients at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (FETHA) in Ebonyi State, especially those assigned beds, had horrible experience on their sick beds.
For these days, health workers in the hospital operating under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) abandoned the patients many of whom were in terrible health conditions and proceeded to protest about many issues in the two phases of the hospital.
The health workers’ protest across the federal hospitals in the country, Daily Sun gathered; was staged to register their displeasure over the alleged non-implementation of the 7-point agreement reached with the federal government in 2017.
The protesters carrying placards with various inscriptions converged at FETHA I and II where their leaders addressed them on the crux of the matter. They accused the federal government of being responsible for the poor health system of the country and insisted that if something was not done quickly, the situation might degenerate further.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Our public tertiary hospitals are not for sale. JOHESU says no to privatization’, ‘JOHESU says no and rejects a tyrant for a minister’, ‘Prof. Adewole pay our seized April/May 2018 salaries’, among others.
Also, on one of the banners contained the list of issues which they considered as the major problems hindering the delivery of quality healthcare services. They mentioned issues of bad and obsolete hospital equipment, lack of basic facilities and poor remuneration.
They also alleged that due to the series of problems plaguing the health system, patients die avoidable deaths on hospital beds.
State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Practitioners, Obiefuna Okeke, while addressing the protesters regretted that the Ministers of Health and Labour, Prof. Isaac Adewole and Senator Chris Ngige, respectively, reneged to honour the agreement they signed with the union in 2017.
“The union is protesting the whimsical attitude of the Minister of Health; and the Labour Minister, by extension, who, signed agreement with our unions in 2017 but never had the spirit to implement them.
“Essentially, the issues in contention are the upward review of CONHESS which was not resolved at the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); the issue of non-promotion of members to the position of directors as and at when due; the unjust withholding of the April and May 2018 salaries of our members among others”, he said.
Also speaking, Chairman of Medical and Health Workers Union in the state, Eze Emmanuel, said that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, they were not demanding to be paid equally with doctors but a fair remuneration.
Emmanuel said: “The workers are demanding what belongs to them. We are not eyeing doctors’ salary but there are things that belong to us. One of the two key issues why this protest is being held is because two months workers’ salaries were withheld because they embarked on strike action which is their constitutional right”.
However, National Financial Secretary of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Nnachi Michael, explained that the protest was not a strike as the workers would return to their duty posts afterwards.
He stated that despite the protests which were held in the hospital, the health workers did not abandon the patients totally to their fate as according to him, they still showed concern to the patients and “always do our best to ensure that they were given proper treatment.”