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Health Workers meet Ministers Monday, May Call Off Strike
Date Posted: 26/Aug/2013
THE five day old strike action by health worker under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) may be called off today (Monday) after a meeting between the leaders of the union and Ministers of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu; and Labour and Productivity, Mr. Emeka Wogu in Abuja by 2 p.m.
 
   An earlier meeting scheduled for Wednesday August 21, 2013 by 12 noon in Abuja could not hold because the union could not form a quorum to represent it at the meeting. 
 
  Minister of Health told The Guardian Sunday in a telephone interview: “The only hope we have that the strike may be called off is that JOHESU has accepted to meet with Minister of Labour and Productivity and myself tomorrow (today), Monday by 2 p.m.”
 
   When asked whether it is possible that the matter will be settled out of court, the minister said: “It won’t be good to preempt the meeting. Let us wait and see what happens tomorrow. We have been in talks with the president and secretary general of JOHESU.”
 
   Contrary to reports, not The Guardian, that activities at federal hospitals have been grounded because of the health workers strike, Chukwu said: “It is unfortunate that the media prefers to report only the negative side of events. Medical doctors, pharmacists and some senior nurses have been on duty. Operations have been going on in federal hospitals across the nation. 
 
  JOHESU is made up of five unions in health sector:  The Medical and Health Workers Unions of Nigeria (MHWUN); the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutions and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRAI); the Nigeria Union of Pharmacists, Technologists and Professions Allied to Medicine (NUPMTAM) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).
 
   However, some members of JOHESU have promised to change the gear of the strike if nothing comes out of the meeting tomorrow. The source, which preferred anonymity told The Guardian: “The strike is still on. I cannot say much until tomorrow.”
 
    Also, the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Olumide Akintayo, has faulted the minister for ordering the health workers to go back to work since the matter is in court. “The fundamental issue is that there is no equity in the health sector. It is not right for the minister to ask the health workers to go back to work when the issues they raised have not been addressed. If we were his professional colleagues, doctors, he would not have said that.
 
   “We should do everything possible to make sure that consumers of health should not continue to suffer. How can we do this? It is to ensure equity, for as long as there is discriminatory treatment we shall continue to contend with strikes and distortions in health services.”  
 
  Also, Chairman PSN Lagos, Akintunde Obembe has predicted that the much-awaited National Health Bill is discriminatory and further promote imbalance among the health workers. 
 
  Obembe said if the bill is passed as it is, then it would engender “disharmony, rancour and turmoil in the health sector” it is meant to transform, adding that the coalition of pharmacists, medical laboratory scientists, physiotherapists and other health workers are currently on war path with the Federal Government because they are not satisfied with the way things are in that sector. 
 
  In his words: “The issue of making doctors to be in charge, whether the experience is there or not and the senior-junior relationship that is very glaring in these institutions is the cause of this problem. But from the way we see things, this is just the beginning,” he said.
 
   Obembe added that the pharmacists were not in doubt that the much publicised health bill has the best of intentions to transform the health system, but have also noted contentious issues that would “never promote harmony among the health workers that are supposed to work as a team.” 
 
   The pharmacists frowned at Section 9 (2) (a) that restricts the process of appointing the chairmen of the National Tertiary Health Institutions Standards Committee from a particular profession (medical doctor), instead of a competitive selection process from a pool of professionals who have competent skills that are not only found in medical doctors.
 
   On membership of the National Council on Health, Section 4 (1) (e) recognises only three professional associations (Doctors, nurses and pharmacists) from a plethora of professional groupings in the health sector. According to the pharmacists, the tenets of fair play and justice appear to be negated if some major players in health are denied participation on the council on health.
 
   Obembe noted inputs from such players when not tapped at source would constitute setback in health plans and designs ultimately.
Source: the Guardian

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