Abuja, Nigeria – In response to unmet demands, the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Health Care Professional Association (AHPA) have instructed their members to initiate an indefinite strike, effective from today. Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, the National Vice President of JOHESU, expressed the urgency of the situation during a press briefing held in Abuja on Thursday.
Dr. Ogbonna stated, “Consequent upon the nonchalant, biased, and lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Ministry of Health against JOHESU members and the resolution of the expanded National Executive Council meeting… our members in Federal Health Institutions nationwide are hereby directed to withdraw their services indefinitely commencing from 00:00 hour on Thursday, May 25, 2023.”
JOHESU, the umbrella body representing various health workers’ unions and associations in Nigeria, including the Medical and Health Workers Union, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, and Associated Institutions, and AHPA, has outlined several key demands that have led to this action.
“The Federal Government’s lack of response and failure to address our demands has left us with no choice but to embark on this indefinite strike,” Dr. Ogbonna further emphasized.
The health workers are seeking the immediate approval and implementation of the Technical Committee report on the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) adjustment by the Federal Government. This adjustment aims to address long-standing disparities in the remuneration of health workers.
“Our primary demand is the approval and implementation of the CONHESS adjustment as recommended by the Technical Committee,” Dr. Ogbonna explained. “This adjustment is crucial for achieving equity and fairness in the health sector.”
In addition to the CONHESS adjustment, the health workers demand the prompt payment of omitted and shortfall amounts in COVID-19 hazard/inducement allowances for affected health workers in Federal Health Institutions. They also seek the recognition and inclusion of health workers in non-core hospital facilities in the payment of the new hazard allowance, as well as the payment of peculiar allowances to health workers under the JOHESU/AHPA alliance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense pressure on our health workers, and it is essential that they receive their hazard allowances without further delay,” Dr. Ogbonna stated. “We also urge the government to extend the hazard allowance to health workers in non-core hospital facilities, as they are equally exposed to the risks associated with their roles.”
Furthermore, JOHESU demands the unconditional implementation of the Pharmacist Consultant cadre and the immediate payment of all withheld salaries at the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri, Jos University Teaching Hospital, and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. The union also seeks the release of salaries for its members at the National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos, for the months of April and May 2018. Additionally, they call for the expeditious implementation of the increase in retirement age from 60 to 65 years and 70 years for Consultants in the health professions.
“The implementation of the Pharmacist Consultant cadre is long overdue and should be executed without further delay,” Dr. Ogbonna emphasized. “We also urge the government to address the issues of withheld salaries and retirement age to ensure the well-being and professional growth of our members.”
The leadership of JOHESU had previously issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Federal Government in a letter dated May 9, 2023, expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of negotiations regarding the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure. The ultimatum, which commenced on May 10, 2023, expired at midnight on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, prompting the current indefinite strike.
As news of the strike spreads, concerns arise regarding the potential impact on the delivery of healthcare services across the country. Patients and the general public are advised to seek alternative arrangements and exercise patience during this period of industrial action.
Dr. Ogbonna assured, “While we regret any inconvenience caused by this strike, we remain committed to working with the government and stakeholders to improve our health system with necessary reforms in the best interest of the public.”
Efforts to obtain a response from Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, for comment on the matter proved unsuccessful as of the time of filing this report. The government’s response to the strike and their actions to address the demands of JOHESU remain crucial in resolving the ongoing standoff and ensuring the uninterrupted provision of healthcare services to the Nigerian populace.
The impact on patients and the healthcare system will be closely monitored, with hopes for a swift resolution that addresses the concerns of the health workers while safeguarding the well-being of the nation’s citizens.