Striking health workers shut down Bayelsa hospital, discharge sick patients

The health workers at the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, Bayelsa, on Tuesday, embarked on an indefinite strike, leading to the abrupt discharge of patients at the hospital.

The strike comes as a heavy blow to the Bayelsa Government as the hospital was, last week, designated a surveillance centre for Ebola in the state.

The health workers under the banner of Joint Health Sector Unions at the Federal Medical Centre, had initially commenced a three-day warning strike on Monday, demanding payment of outstanding promotion arrears.

The strike completely paralysed activities at the hospital, FMC, following the five week nationwide strike already embarked on by the Nigerian Medical Association.

At the physiotherapy department, patients were forced out of the complex by representatives of the various health unions who locked up the facility.

striking health workers block entrance to federal medical centre yenagoaAlso hundreds of patients were dismissed at the General Out Patients Department where consultant physicians were rendering skeletal services.

Some critically ill patients on admission, who were managed by consultants and nurses, were also ejected.

“This is one strike too many; first the members of Nigerian Medical Association and now the other categories of health workers are joining them. It is very pathetic that no one cares for the interest of patients,” said Moses Salo, whose mother was admitted at the FMC.

“My mother has been under intensive care and managed by the consultants who are not part of the strike, but this time around, even the nurses and others have started their own. It is so bad that this is happening. My mother was referred to this place because the private hospital I took her to lacked expertise to handle the ailment. Where do we go from here?”

The coordinator of the Joint Health Sector Unions at the hospital, Simon Bernabas, said on Tuesday that the various unions were compelled to embark on the indefinite strike after a three-day warning strike in June.

He said that the refusal of FMC Yenagoa to pay promotion arrears and other outstanding allowances, currently being enjoyed at other Federal Medical Centres, made the strike inevitable.

He said that investigations conducted by union officials showed that their counterparts in other Federal Medical Centres were enjoying the allowances.

When contacted, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Ebitimi Etebu, said the outstanding arrears of allowance was due to funding shortfall.

“The strike is malicious. We have explained to the workers that funds to pay them is not with us here and that they will be paid. But they just held a meeting and went on demonstrations on the streets. The management is not part of that; they are on their own,” Mr. Etebu said.

On the plight of patients in the face of incessant strikes in the health sector, the hospital administrator said that it was regrettable.

“It is the same thing. The doctors have been on strike for the past five weeks or thereabout and it is the same fate. There are lots of problems in the health sector that the federal government is not addressing. So long as these things are not addressed, the unions capitalise of them to go on strikes at will. Like this one, the management got no notification, and they have ejected people receiving care,” he said.

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