Lagos - Medical services were paralysed on Wednesday in some public health institutions in Lagos as health workers embarked on a three-day warning strike.
The workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), are protesting against the non-implementation of the agreement the union reached with the Federal Government on January 7.
Visits by correspondents of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to some of the hospitals showed that the strike had grounded activities in the health institutions.
The correspondents visited the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi and the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Ebute Meta, Lagos.
At FMC, NAN reports that nurses, laboratory scientists, technicians, pharmacists, radiographers and other health personnel in the hospital were not on duty.
Some patients who came for treatment at the hospital were not attended to, as there were no record officers to sort out their files and present them to the doctors on duty.
Also, doctors and consultants who were seen in their offices did not attend to the outpatients.
They, however, attended to the patients on admission.
Ebenezer Akande, the Chairman, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), FMC Chapter, told NAN that his members had complied with the national directive on the strike.
At LUTH, the Outpatient Department (OPD) and Emergency and Accident Unit, were deserted as only doctors were seen performing skeletal services in the wards.
A resident doctor who pleaded anonymity said, "The importance of the health workers in providing care and support services for the smooth running of a hospital cannot be undermined.
"As you can see, this place looks deserted and a doctor cannot add a nurse's role or that of someone in the records department to his already heavy workload.
"I am appealing to the striking workers to see reason in the interest of the patients," he said.
One of the patients, Gilbert Ebenato, said, "I appeal to the Federal Government and the health workers to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.
"Resolving the dispute is in the interest of people. I don’t have money to transfer myself to the private hospital. My prayer is for them to come back to work,” Ebenato said.
Another patient, Gbemisola Shomorin, urged the health workers to channel their grievances through other means rather than going on strike.
"I don’t know why strike should always be a means of resolving industrial disputes. Let us find some other ways of settling industrial disputes.
"Only few weeks ago, it was the doctors who went on strike, now it is the health workers. This is not good for our health system, "she said.
Saliu Razaq, another patient, complained that nobody had attended to him since 8:00a.m he arrived at the hospital.
He said that there were no nurses or records officers to sort out his case file and he was supposed to carry out a test at the laboratory.
At the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, doctors and consultants were seen rendering skeletal services to the patients on admission while those with fresh cases were turned back at the gate.
NAN reports that Ibe Nwokenta, the National Chairman of MHWUN, had on Monday directed members to embark on the warning strike.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, had on Tuesday appealed to the JOHESU to shelve its planned warning strike.
JOHESU comprises the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, National Association of Nurses and Midwives, and Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals.
The workers are demanding improved working conditions and facilities at the various health facilities across the country.
They are also calling for non-skipping of salary grade level CONHESS 10; passage of the National Health Bill; payment of consultancy and specialist allowance and call/shift duty allowance.