By Oluwafunke Ishola
Patients seeking treatment at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) have complained that perennial strikes by health workers would worsen morbidity among citizens.
The patients spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos.
They were reacting to the indefinite strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP).
NUAHP is an umbrella union for health workers such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, dieticians, medical laboratory scientists, optometrists and radiographers.
Others are dental therapists, medical physicists, health information managers, clinical psychologists and medical social workers.
A NAN check at LASUTH, Ikeja, revealed that the strike partially disrupted clinical services as NUAHP members in the tertiary hospital pressed home their demands.
Many out-Patients who came in for check-up were told to go and get new dates, and some chairs were upturned in some departments early in the day as the strike got underway.
Some of the upturned chairs were later put back in place, which NAN learnt, followed pleas by some senior hospital officials.
Some patients were seen complaining about the situation as their files were not brought out by workers in the records department.
This made them unable to see physicians, as NAN observed that only fresh patients with referral letters were attended to by the nurses and directed to see doctors.
At 10:58 a.m at the Surgical Out-Patient Department, nurses announced that the records department was on strike, and advised patients on follow-up appointments to take new appointment dates.
A patient’s relative, Mr Femi Ajayi, said Nigerians had suffered greatly from various strikes in the health sector, noting that the recurring crisis had caused many avoidable deaths.
Ajayi noted that patient care access was a mirage for many patients across the country, calling on the federal and state governments to find a lasting solution to the recurring strikes.
Similarly, Mrs Nkechi Nwabueze, a patient, said that the country could not afford continued poor funding of the health sector and incessant strikes.
Nwabueze said that incessant strikes eroded progress in the health sector and was increasing morbidity and mortality among citizens.
“Patients go through sleepless nights, and a lot of stress whenever we are coming to the hospital coupled with long-hours before we see clinicians.
“It is painful that we weather all these challenges and still can’t access treatment because of strikes. The government and the unions must work on resolving their differences fast.
“We are tired of the whole situation as we bear the brunt of the strikes,” she complained.
NAN reports that NUAHP directed its members to begin an indefinite strike nationwide on May 25, due to irreconcilable differences between the union and the Federal Government.
It recalled that the National leadership of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) on May 9 issued a 15-days strike ultimatum through a letter to the federal government.
The union said the ultimatum was over the non-implementation of collectively bargained agreements, especially, the issue of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) adjustment as done for CONMESS.
NUAHP directed states with unresolved trade disputes and outstanding demands to immediately join the strike.
Reacting, Mr Sode Adegbenro, Chairman, NUAHP LASUTH Chapter, said that the chapter had ensured 100 per cent compliance with the strike directive of its national body.
Adegbenro said that locally, discussions were ongoing with the Lagos State Government about peculiar local issues of concern to NUAHP members.
He disclosed that there was an ongoing meeting with representatives of the government at the state Ministry of Establishment.
According to him, NUAHP members have seven demands before the state government.
He said that the government had acceded to their requests with a pledge to implement within two to four weeks.
Adegbenro said that an MoU would be signed by both parties and a National Executive Council meeting would be held to decide the next steps of action as regards the strike.
NAN reports that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on May 22 ended its five days warning strike, with a pledge to review progress of commitment between May 28 to June 3 during its Ordinary General Meeting.