It is now almost clear that Nigerians may not have heard the last of strikes and counter-strikes in the country’s health sector. With deep-rooted inter-association quarrels, bad blood and avoidable rivalry holding sway, the patient may well be the ultimate loser, if the authorities continue to pander to one group against the other, rather than address issues.
That same rivalry in part, informed the nationwide strike called by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), to among other things, checkmate implementation of concessions granted other support workers within the hospital community.
Apart from the NMA, there is the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and Healthcare Professionals Association (HPA), who, as support staff of the medical doctor now insist that being professionals, without whose vital services, the doctor cannot operate well, they require a better deal.
After series of negotiations, threats and even strikes, the Federal Government agreed to some of their demands. It was based on that government issued a circular mid this year, which among others, provides for the approval of consultancy positions for such support staff; abolition of deputy chairman, Medical Advisory Committee position and also the appointment of support staff as directors.
Other aspects of the agreement reached between government and JOHESU, upon which Federal Government issued the circular include, elimination of medical teachers from eligibility for headship of teaching hospitals and the approval for the headship of government hospitals by other qualified hospital professionals.
Among these support staff are Pharmacists, Laboratory Scientists, Radiologists, Midwives, Nurses, among others, some of who, by their training, spend equally long years in schools of study as do the doctors. These crop of professionals insist that the days, when, the medical doctor single-handedly owned the patient were over, in view of the ever-expanding scope of medical sciences.
But the doctors, under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association and the Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) cannot accept such displacement of the status quo without a fight.
It was for that reason that MDCAN approached the National Industrial Court (NIC) to stop the implementation of the agreement government had earlier reached with officials of JOHESU. In the suit, number: NICN/ABJ/ 177/2014, MDCAN secured an interim injunction to restrain government from implementing the agreement.
Joined in that suit were the Federal Ministry of Labour and Attorney General of the Federation as defendants.
In granting the injunction, the presiding Judge, Justice M. N. Esowe, on June 27, 2014, restrained the defendants, ‘from implementing, executing, carrying out or giving effect to the decisions, resolutions and agreements that were reached at a meeting, which was held in the Federal Capital City, Abuja between the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Healthcare Professionals Association (HPA) on the one part and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Minister of Health; Chairman, Salaries, Income and Wages Commission; Head of Service of the Federation and other top government functionaries on the other part, on June 5, 2014.
The injunction further ordered that ‘no party shall proceed to do any act in furtherance of any agreement reached by the parties, which arguments form the kernel or subject matter of this motion before the court’. The court also barred MDCAN from embarking on any strike in protest against the said agreement, warning, ‘Nobody or party in the case shall embark on any strike until the motion on notice, which is already filed in this court, is heard and determined’.
The Judge then adjourned the case to July 10, 2014 for further hearing and determination.
It was within the same period that the NMA embarked on strike, to demand, as did MDCAN, rejection of the agreement reached with JOHESU, and an upward review of doctors’ Hazard allowance from N5,000 to N100,000, among others.
During the period, JOHESU seemed helpless because of the injunction and could do little but threatened that it would embark on strike if government reneged on its agreement with its body in favour of NMA. JOHESU has said no association had the monopoly of strike,s and urged the doctors to challenge government decision in court and not employ strike as a ready weapon to force compliance.
This is the crux of the matter. Where individuals and organizations are aggrieved over any action or impending actions, the proper thing to do is for such issues to be resolved by a court of competent jurisdiction..
For instance, there are in existence Acts that established Teaching Hospitals, and spell out functional organogram, among other details. Such Acts also specify the reach and limits of professionals.
In times of crisis like the type between doctors and support professionals, actions to be taken by government should be based on such laws, and where amendments are required, same be done. Any aggrieved party can then find no basis to challenge any contrary action outside the law.
For instance, if government reached agreement with JOHESU on a wide range of issues which inadvertently or intentionally breaches existing rights of NMA provided by law, the doctors’ body does not need a strike action to get relief. Strike should, indeed, be the last resort if dialogue, and legal action fail.
But while MDCAN went to the industrial court to challenge government’s decision, NMA did not, and instead embarked on nationwide strike at great loss to a nation then battling the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
In fact, it was towards the peak of the final battle against Ebola, that the doctors eventually called off their strike, assured that their demands would be met.
Expectedly, what is NMA’s gain will be JOHESU’s loss. And since the only weapon available is strike, health workers under the aegis of JOHESU have also embraced the effective option.
This means, public hospitals would operate without support staff if, the all-embracing strike is embarked upon. How can the medical doctor work alone? Who superintends diagnostics and other laboratory needs? Who handles x-rays and scans?
Of course, the consequences of the absence of these workers would indeed be grave on the hospital community. And as usual, force government to bend over backwards to meet the needs of the striking workers.
Last week, support staff called a warning strike which would become indefinite on the long run. Their demands are the same which the medical doctors would not want implemented.
So, should government please the doctors at the expense of the support staff, or please the support staff at the expense of the medical doctors? Since either choice means doom for the health sector, what is the way forward?
To avoid disastrous consequences on the health sector, still surviving an Ebola scare, all interest groups within the health sector should be joined in the MDCAN/JOHESU suit number: NICN/ABJ/177/2014 to help streamline all demands, rights and privileges, based on law.
All parties must place their demands on the table, debate them based on facts and law, and then let the court of competent jurisdiction decide on the matter.
Unless that is done, and early too, Nigerians shall continue to witness one form of industrial action or the other within the delicate health sector, at great risk to the patient.
My Agony is that each time these health unions embark on strike, like two elephants, it is the grass, the poor patient that suffers, while patients with means are diverted to their many private clinics, pharmacies and even science labs. Methinks, a law needs to be made to withhold salaries and allowances of workers who embark on strike without laid down legal procedures.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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