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The strike embarked upon by health workers under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals has taken shine off the National Hospital Abuja, resulting in the “death of a pregnant woman” as workers and patients have deserted the hospital.
When the ICIR visited the hospital complex on Monday, the general outpatient ward, which used to be a hub of activities, was empty. Two pregnant women who were sighted at one of the wards declined comments, one of them saying her husband works in the hospital.
This was as other wards in the hospital were equally empty, with just a few doctors and cleaners around.
Though they declined comments, the ICIR gathered from a source at the hospital, who asked not to be named, that the four-day-old strike had already resulted in the death of a pregnant woman who did not have the attention of the relevant health workers when she went into labour on Sunday night.
This, however, could not be officially confirmed as of the time of filing this report, as Tayo Hastrup, General Manager, Public Relations of the hospital, said there was no such incident at the hospital.
“Not National Hospital; not here at all,” he said
Speaking with ICIR on telephone, Hastrup disclosed that the hospital management had plans to reduce the effects of the strike.
“The Minister of Labour and others are still meeting with the leaders of the health workers and besides that, we have put in place contingency plans to make sure that our patients have access to services” he said
Explaining contingency, he said: “Other workers are not on strike. Doctors are not on strike and corps members are here. Other officers are here.”
Meanwhile, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, has expressed “deep regret” about the strike by the health workers.
In a statement by Samuel Olowokere, Deputy Director of Press at the Ministry, Ngige appealed to the health workers to call off action and return to their different beats in the hospitals and institutions to avoid unnecessary hardship and death of patients.
The statement reads: “I wish to place on record that JOHESU had wrongly issued a seven-day strike ultimatum on 14th September, 2017 instead of the mandatory fifteen-day notice the law requires of those on essential duties.
“The body took another wrong step by routing its notice of action to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) instead of the Labour and Employment Minister whom JOHESU is fully aware is empowered by the Section 5(6) of the Trade Dispute Act 2004 to apprehend such dispute within the time frame of notice and effect conciliation thereafter.
“Further, it is regrettable that the invitation extended to JOHESU by the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment under the provision of this law for a meeting on Thursday, 21st September, 2017 was not honoured because JOHESU wanted to call out the member unions on strike, thereby disrupting services in these health institutions.
“For the avoidance of doubt however, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, working in concert with the Ministry of Health, has fixed another conciliatory meeting for tomorrow Tuesday, 26th September, 2017 by 2 p.m.
“Therefore, the Hon. Minister requests members of JOHESU to resume work as serious efforts are being made to meet their grievances most of which like the payment of shortfalls of salaries, promotion arrears, repatriation allowances among others have already been addressed by Government through various negotiations with other unions representing the interest of workers, that is, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the last three weeks.”