Since the strike embarked upon by members of the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, entered the Seventh week, thousands of patients on admission have been ejected from various hospitals’ wards across the country; forcing their family members to pay through the noses as they scramble to evacuate them to private hospitals.
JOHESU began the strike on April 17, 2018 following the Federal Government’s alleged failure to honour the agreement reached with them on 30th September 2017. While the Honourable Minister of Health at various meetings has maintained that the Federal Government has not been in default after considering all issues, JOHESU contended this and went on to publish the said agreement in the Daily Trust Newspaper of Saturday May 5, 2018.
Going through the said published agreement reached on September 30th 2017, two things are clear. Either JOHESU is building its castle on a foundation of lies or the leadership of the Union does not understand simple English.
Article two of the published agreement on the upward adjustment of the salary scale stated: ‘the meeting noted that two different figures had been submitted to the NSIWC on separate occasions.
It was observed that the figures are no longer realistic due to lapse of time. The NSIWC should therefore do a fresh computation based on new data consistent with the present reality.
The FMOH is expected to make available necessary and required data to NSIWC to enable fresh computation.
The newly computed figures will be forwarded by NSIWC to the FMOH for onward transmission for processing by the high level body of the Government and thereafter to FMOH. This process should be completed within five weeks.’
Any intelligent or interested person would easily know that this section has not called for a circular and has not indicated that money has been approved.
It only talked about processing by the high level body. It is therefore difficult to fathom that what is to be processed by HLB would be considered to be an approval for an allowance.
I simply believe that what JOHESU is doing is to stampede and blackmail the Federal Government into paying an allowance that is yet to be approved.
They have also gone ahead to turn this scenario into Doctors versus non Doctors affair which is most unfortunate.
The Medical and Dental practitioners on the other hand, are covered under the umbrella of the Nigerian Medical Association, and it is to know that the former Government, under Goodluck Jonathan, had entered into an agreement with the NMA on January 14, 2014 to maintain relativity in the Sector.
The Minister disclosed that government was doing everything possible to end the on-going strike, saying, “Government has addressed 14 out of the 15 demands put forward by the union.’
He hinted that when the Buhari-led government came on board, “JOHESU approached us that they had an agreement with government but we discovered that there was really no agreement with government.
He noted that even when the late Honourable Minister of State, for labour and employment, Barr. James Ocholi, SAN, intervened in their matter, he demanded JOHESU to produce the claimed agreement but none was produced; as there was none.
“What they were able to provide were minutes of meetings held previously and we told them that no responsible government will implement minutes of previous meetings”.
Fourteen of the 15 point demands have been addressed over the last one and half years. The only one left is the salary adjustment, which we are currently meeting on, but JOHESU had always vehemently refused the government adjustment offers.’
In the recent past, we also saw in the print media, where the NMA president, warned the federal government against acceding to the demands by JOHESU, saying that doctors did not join the strike as the industrial action was targeted at medical doctors.
He also spoke in defence of the health minister saying, he should not be held responsible for an agreement that was entered before he became Minister.
The reactions across the states also show similar anger by the doctors. In Kaduna state, JOHESU strike has been described as a gang up against the Nigerian people and government for the purpose of sabotaging the genuine efforts being put in place to ensure a lasting peace and development of the country’s health sector,
noting that, JOHESU had refused to come to a tripartite round table discussion with the Ministry and NMA, where all grey areas among the Associations and Unions could have been resolved.
This strike is an act of sabotage to health development and service delivery to Nigerians, and should not be condoned by Nigerians.
It would be recalled that the National Industrial Court had last week ordered striking members of JOHESU to suspend the on-going strike and return to work.
Justice Babatunde Adejumo gave the order after listening to the submissions of Mr Okere Nnamdi, in an ex-parte motion filed by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
The NGO Incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International, in the motion, prayed the court to order the workers to resume work and go back to the negotiation table.
Justice Adejumo, who is also the President of NICN, ordered Minister of Health as well as Minister of Labour and Employment, among others, to immediately set-up a committee to address issues raised by the health workers.
The judge ordered that the parties should arrive at an acceptable and amicable solution in the interest of Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the strike.
The judge also ordered that the President and Vice President of JOHESU, should attend such negotiations.
He said that the negotiations should take into consideration the provisions of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission Act. Respondents in the suit are the President and Vice President of JOHESU and National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
In the meantime, the incorporated Trustees of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation International had threatened to file contempt proceedings against JOHESU President Mr. Josiah Biobelemoye, if he failed to call-off the nationwide strike.
The group while insisting that the Minister of health should not be blamed for the industrial action, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to proscribe the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, as an illegal association.
In asking Buhari to proscribe JOHESU, the group called on Mr. President to invoke his powers under Section 1 of the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja on Friday, Executive Director of organisation, Mr Kingdom Okere, who was visibly angry, said the strike was “illegal, unconstitutional, wicked, callous, a criminal breach of trust and ill-conceived.”
Okere stated that it was irresponsible and inhuman for JOHESU to embark on strike to demand for upward review of CONHESS salary scale, and employment of additional health professionals following similar demands by medical doctors.
Apart from demanding the proscription of JOHESU, the group also threatened to commence contempt proceedings against officials of the Union if they fail to obey the court order and resume work by close of office on May 18.
An anonymous stakeholder also advised the affected parties to sheath their sword and come to the negotiation table for a logical end to these endless crises in the sector.
He said, “Putting the lives of patients at risk for some selfish interests is highly ridiculous and preposterous, to say the least. The plan by the government to proscribe the Unions and Association will further deepen the crisis in the sector.
“In fact, that will signal the beginning of the end for the sector. Government must work out modalities to address these contentious issues.
“JOHESU members should also stop making this look like a fight of supremacy between them and the NMA. Be it the NMA, PSN, NSP and whatever it is, all that matters should be the wellbeing of the patient and average Nigerians who may require medical services.
The reactions from JOHESU have always been inappropriate. They move from the standpoint that the court injunction was fake, then later they said they were not served but it is interesting to note that they have responded to the same court ruling by filing notice of appeal as well as stay of execution on which they are contesting issues in the same ‘fake’ proceedings.
It will be honourable for JOHESU to come out of these series of lies and go back to work by obeying court order given by the National Industrial court which is a court of competent jurisdiction.
We are also glad to hear that the Nigerian Health Institution Chairmen, representing the committee of Chairmen of Teaching and other tertiary health institutions led by their protem chairman, Dr. Sam S. Jaja have also intervene in a bid to ensure that there is peace in the health sector.
It is public knowledge that efforts are being made by the Federal Ministry of Health to strategise and ensure a harmonious working relationship among all health workers including Doctors. This, we know, involves the setting up of a Committee on critical labour issues affecting the Health Sector.
All stakeholders must cooperate with Government, and support the Minister of Health and his team, in bringing about a lasting solution to all the challenges in the health Sector.
The health facilities can only thrive well under a peaceful atmosphere, to provide a sustainable, efficient, effective, affordable, accessible and equitable health services that could give rise to achieving a strong Universal Health Coverage for Nigerians.
Then, we can minimize medical tourism and improve the health indices; this should be the focal point for all and sundry that wishes the country well as it is the way to go.
Jika wrote in from Kano State.