It's no news that workers in the health sector in Nigeria under the guise of JOHESU has embarked on an industrial action to press home its demands for better remunerations amongst other things.
While this is on, there have been confrontations between the government, the Nigerian doctors and the striking health workers with regards to the legality of the various unions and even the demands.
The remit of article is not however not to analyse the circumstances surrounding the struggles but to seek an answer to the question *‘’what does the Nigerian nurse stand to benefit’’.*
From time immemorial, the nursing profession has played a very pivotal role in the health sector owing to the fact they can actually boast of the greatest contact with the patient. Even majority of medical practitioners, when they choose to be truthful, will agree that no successful practice can be carried out without a qualified nurse. Neither will they allow their own relatives to be admitted in a ward not manned by qualified nurses.
Experience with the few occasions where nurses have gone on strike has shown that the effect generated by the strike including the difficulty to run theatres and admit patient is at par with that seen when JOHESU as a whole goes on strike. In fact, a JOHESU strike without nurses has failed from inception.
And whenever JOHESU claims they represent over 80% of hospital worker, nurses make up at least 50% of this and other non-nurse JOHESU members make up 30%.
Having said all these, it will be expected that issues pertinent to nurses to take priority whenever JOHESU goes on strike. For example, rather than prioritizing the fight for retirement age increment that will benefit both doctors and cleaners alike, why don’t we ask for an increase in shift allowance for nurses which is so small compared to the call allowance being earned by the doctors, pharmacists and even the laboratory scientists. Instead of asking for hazard allowance that will cut across board for even the admin staff that handles only files, why not ask for an increased entry point for nurses. Will it be asking too much if the entry point of nurses is made to be CONHESS 9 just like the laboratory scientist rather than level 7 which it is?
It is infuriating to hear that the salary of a house officer is more than that of a nurse that has spent 12 years in service, but what is more disheartening is the revelation that an intern pharmacist, intern laboratory scientist or intern physiotherapist earns salaries with less than N30,000 difference with these house officers.
In other words, how can we in JOHESU say we are in battle with the doctors for inequality and unfairness when same inequality and unfairness exists in our own midst? Or what do you call a situation where an intern pharmacist or laboratory scientist earns more than a nurse who has spent 9 years in service even if she has a BSc. If you doubt this, ask them for their payslips... I’m sure they will never show you.
The import of this is that even is the adjusted CONHESS is paid, what it will mean to the nurses salary will be a paltry few thousands of naira while the other JOHESU members will smile to their banks having used us as pawn. Seems George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, was correct after all when he said ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal’ because from where I stand, I can hardly seen any difference between the Doctors, the Pharmacist, the Physiotherapist, the Optometrist and the Laboratory Scientist.
Let’s ask ourselves which of the JOHESU demands specifically benefits the nurses. Or lets xray and see who benefits most from the other demands which includes
* Administrative autonomy: We know most Nigerian nurses don’t plan to take over patient care without input from the doctors, but the Laboratory scientist on the other hand need to get the doctors out of the laboratory at all cost
* Consultancy/Specialty allowance: A careful perusal of the CONMESS circular show that even for doctors, it is not gotten unless you get to equivalent of CONHESS 13. The import of this is that it is far easier for a pharmacist whose entry point is CONHESS 9 to get there than a nurse whose entry point is CONHESS 7. Moreover the consultancy position is not automatic but by appointment and not automatic even for doctors, this further reduces its availability even if approved.
* Increment of retirement age: applies to everybody, even doctors.
* Abolition of position of DCMAC- this does not improve the welfare of the Nigerian nurse specifically. Not even sure it improves it in long term because the position of CMAC still exists and is occupied by doctors. I’d rather that this position is retained and is occupied by the Nurses owing to the fact that we make up over 50% of workers in any tertiary hospital.
This list of demand not relevant to the nurses is endless. If the Nigerian nurses must continue to partake and in fact lead the JOHESU struggles, than they must be given their right of place and not relegated to the background because ours is a female dominated profession or the belief that we are not as learned as our counterparts.
Since we have commenced this strike with JOHESU, we must see it to the end so that it doecn't look like we chickened out due to the government's threats.
However, before subsequents struggles, we must ensure that our buring needs are brought to the forth. I stand bold to say that JOHESU is nothing without the nurses and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
A Proud Nigerian Nurse
NB: I have to remain anonymous for fear of violence being meted against me by those not happy with this write up.
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