Following Tuesday morning’s protest embarked upon by patients at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, in the aftermath of the strike by the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of the hospital; the hospital management told the patients to go home “if they can no longer cope.”
It was gathered that the other workers’ unions at the hospital, on Tuesday afternoon, issued a midnight ultimatum to the management to resolve the impasse or they would join the strike.
“We were told that there was nothing they could do about the situation, that anyone that cannot cope should go elsewhere,” said a patient who participated in the protest.
The strike, which entered its 11th day on Tuesday, has taken a toll on both patients and the remaining hospital staff; patients on admission in the hospital said they are fed up with the lack of care despite paying huge sums for their treatment.
“Even to change clothes and my beddings… For instance now this bed sheet, I’ve been using it, today is my 7th day. Because the people that are to wash them are part of the strike,” one of the patients told Premium Times.
“Even blood donors have been coming. But because the junior staff are not here, they can’t donate. And I need four pints for my treatment,” the patient added.
An indefinite strike
In a circular dated 29th March and signed by A.A Adeyemi, the Secretary of the Igbobi branch of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria; the members were directed to commence an indefinite strike from 12.00 a.m on Friday March 30, 2012.
According to the circular, the strike was due to the management’s refusal to implement the skipping of CONHESS 10; convert clerical officers to executive cadre appropriately; reverse its policy on non training of staff.
The workers also want the hospital management to stop the deployment of their members to irrelevant units or departments as well as reverse the arbitrary increment of staff quarters’ rate.
“What is happening at Igbobi is quite unfortunate because we thought that Igbobi management could be one of the managements that seem to be responsible by listening to the yearnings of the workers. And we believe that such a hospital shouldn’t be a place that would allow things to go the way it is going,” said Stephen Ibe, chairman of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Federal Area Council, Lagos.
“What is happening at Igbobi seems to be a cumulative, in the sense that several times that the branch union of Medical and Health Workers Union have requested for union management meeting with Igbobi management where some of the problems could have been addressed.
“But Igbobi management, with the leadership of the CMD refused to honour such meetings,” Mr. Ibe added.
Mr. Ibe further accused the hospital management of “deliberately” denying workers of further training, intimidation and, harassment.
“They refused to send our members (to training)…. They said they cannot convert even those that managed to acquire additional certificates, that they cannot convert them. That they can go somewhere else and look for jobs. No reason was given for that,” said Mr. Ibe.
“The most annoying part of it is refusal to discuss with the union, let them know what is happening, tell them the reason why you don’t want to do that, but they refused.
“We are having about four point demand for Igbobi management, and last time we had meeting, the union shifted ground but the management remained adamant,” he added.
At the MBA 5 ward in the hospital on Tuesday, the nurses were telling the patients to start packing their things.
“If you know you cannot stay…. We cannot continue working like this,” one of the nurses said.
Mr. Ibe argued that skipping CONHESS has been in existence over the years sequel to an existing directive from their national secretariat and should not be changed.
“If you are employed, when you get to CONHESS 9, you remain at 9. When you get to 10, you remain at 10… While these people that are making these policies now, when they got to 10 they skipped 11 and went to 12. They skipped 13 and (went) to 14.
“So what happened to those people that benefited from it? Such people that are making such policies now that have passed through this channel and they are now pensionable, what happens to them? Are we all not Nigerians? Is it not the same civil service work? Skipping of CONHESS must be observed. That is the position of medical and health workers union,” said Mr. Ibe.
On the issue of redeployment of their members to ‘irrelevant’ departments, Mr. Ibe described it as “punishment.”
“Somebody that have gotten his Masters, that have his B.Sc, the person must have acquired such certificate in the Accounts department, is it not where he is supposed to work?
“But such person will be transferred to go to the gate to assist the gate men. I don’t know the kind of accounting he is going to do at the gate,” said Mr. Ibe.
“Such persons are posted to the toilet to supervise those cleaning the toilet, that this is part of his job. Or to the laundry.
“This is punishment. Somebody must have acquired a certificate in Psychology; they will say he should go to Admin. To do what?”
‘We shifted ground’
Wahab Yinusa, the hospital’s Medical Director, was not available for comments.
But Funsho Ige, the head of the Public Relations Unit, said that they were still holding meetings to resolve the issue.
“Today’s meeting has been rescheduled. It is a continuous thing, from the things we agreed last week, that’s why we are still continuing to discuss.”
Mr. Ige said that almost all the issues demanded by the striking workers have been resolved during previous meetings, a claim the workers vehemently denied.
“Is it that the management has refused to shift ground or that we have not found a common ground? Are they also shifting ground themselves?
“The issue of CONHESS is the main issue because the management has no control over it. That is the Head of Service circular which is binding on all health institutions,” said Mr. Ige.
“The management cannot single handedly take a decision on that. It is the federal government Head of Service circular and so we cannot do anything about that.”
The chairman of the health workers maintained that the hospital management has refused to address all the “lingering” problems.
“The strike will continue until when they are able to answer the workers,” Mr. Ibe said.