Owerri, - Health workers in Imo on Thursday staged a peaceful protest at the premises of Imo State House of Assembly against the concession of public hospitals to private firms.
The workers also protested against the non-payment of their six months salary arrears
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workers, comprising doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, were dressed in black and carried placards expressing their grievances.
The spokesman for the group, Dr Darlington Akugwu, said the planned concession of 27 new general hospitals, being constructed in the state, would make healthcare services unaffordable by the people.
Akugwu said that healthcare was a social service, adding that government’s plan to hand over the hospitals to private firms for 15 years was against the interest of the masses.
The protesters urged the assembly not to pass the concession bill before it.
Responding, the Minority Leader of the House, Mrs Ngozi Ekeji, who represented the Speaker, Mr Benjamin Uwajimogu, promised that the assembly would look into the complaints of the workers.
``We will continue to dialogue with you to find a solution to your problems,'' she said.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Obi-Njoku, however, said that the protesters were being misled and explained that the planned concession was in the best interest of the people.
He said the government would not sell the hospitals as being speculated but that they would be returned to the government after 15 years.
The commissioner said the affected hospitals were being constructed under a Private Public Partnership, involving the government and a British firm, Lantech Health Management Consortium.
He said that under the arrangement, the hospitals would be equipped with modern health facilities and run by professionals to ensure efficiency and profitability.
The commissioner said the government was providing 25 per cent of the investment, while the partner would pay 75 per cent.