The Federal Ministry of Health is to meet with striking health workers next Monday on how to end the ongoing strike, the Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has said.

The workers had embarked on a nationwide strike Thursday, to press for the implementation of an agreement reached with the government.

As the government was making arrangements to dialogue with the striking workers, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Thursday, directed all doctors to render uninterrupted services, especially for emergency cases.

Chukwu said Thursday at a news conference in Abuja, that series of informal meetings had been held between the union, Minister of Labour and Productivity and other relevant personnel.

He said the ministry was ready to “meet with the workers on Monday but waiting was for them (Joint Health Sector Unions) to accept the date.

?A meeting was also scheduled for yesterday (Wednesday). Although, the union’s president was present, it could not form a quorum because some members left, so we only had an informal talk.

?Report reaching us indicates that the strike is at various levels but in some institution nobody is on strike, while in others health workers, except pharmacists and doctors, are on strike.

?We are compiling full report to know the hospitals on strike.

?The main four issues at stake that we could not quite agree on are skipping of promotion, the national health bill, appointment of consultants, and allowances,? he said.

Chukwu said since those issues could not be resolved through dialogue or negotiation they were referred to the National Industrial Court, according to the rules, governing labour.

?The matter is before the court, any matter before the court means we should not take any further action until it dispenses with it,? he said.

He, however, said government was desirous of ensuring lasting harmony in the sector.

Meanwhile, the NMA National President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, said in a statement, that plans were being made by the striking workers to prevent doctors from providing healthcare services in the hospitals.

According to him, we have nothing against the right of people to determine how best to actualise their demands.

?We shall, however, not tolerate any attempt to obstruct medical and dental practitioners in the course of rendering their official duties,? he said.

Enabulele urged the chief medical directors of the affected hospitals to provide adequate security and access to hospital materials, equipment and other healthcare facilities.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), skeletal services were being rendered in the hospitals visited in Lagos, as health workers joined their counterparts in the nationwide strike.

The hospitals were the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebute Metta, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba and the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi.

At LUTH, an official, who sought anonymity, said health workers in the hospital joined the strike yesterday, after receiving a directive from the national body.

He said that doctors were only rendering skeletal services to the patients at the emergency unit of the hospital.
Also, activities were partially paralysed at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebute Meta and the Federal Neuropsychiatry Hospital, Yaba, due to the health workers? strike.

A visit to the FMC showed that the gates were under lock and key as the security guards refused to open to any visitor, including the doctors.

Many patients were turned back, while the nursing mothers on admission at the maternity wards were being discharged and referred to other hospitals.

But at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, skeletal services were being offered, as some patients were being attended to.

The Chairman, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Mr. Uzondu Eke, said the hospital still offered skeletal services.

?We do not want to paralyse activities and close down totally,” he said.

At the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi, many patients were turned back, while those on admission were being discharged and referred to other hospitals.

The Chairman, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) in Lagos State, Mr. Femi Omoba, confirmed that health workers in the state had joined the strike.

The state chairman said the workers were aggrieved because of the delay in the implementation of their demands, which he said, was ratified by a recent ruling of the National Industrial Court.

?Some workers in certain medical fields can attain the position of a Chief Consultant, while others were not allowed to reach such rank.

?We are saying that it is discriminatory to allow only a group of workers to attain a particular rank, while their counterparts in other specialties with years of experience, were not promoted to such level,? he said.

Omoba also said the government was yet to settle the issue of workers Consolidated Medical Salary even when an agreement had been signed.

He said the workers would not go back on the strike if their issues were not addressed.

The Joint Health Workers? Union had issued a 21-day ultimatum over the non-implementation of the agreement it earlier reached with the federal government.


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