Bayelsa: Patients Groan as Health Workers Continue Strike

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

Patients at the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, have called on the authorities to immediately respond to the demand of striking health workers in the only federal health institution in the state capital.

Some of those who spoke, noted that they were currently stuck in the hospital because they could not afford private health institutions.

Citing a shortfall in their salaries, the National Union of Allied Health Professionals, Yenagoa Chapter, earlier this month, commenced an indefinite strike to push their demand.
At the health institution yesterday, it was observed that the strike had paralysed out-patients and laboratory services, with physiotherapy, radiotherapy and records departments of the hospital also affected.

But the Chairman, NUAHP, FMC Yenagoa, Mr. Oginike Lante, told journalists yesterday that his members were compelled to commence the indefinite strike after giving 28-days notice to the FMC management without any positive outcome.

“We had given the statutory 21 days notice and additional seven days making a total of 28 days. So, this strike is in compliance with the provisions of the labour laws.
“We are concerned about the effect on our patients, but we have exhausted all other options open to us. So far, the management has not been responsive towards our demands. So, we are still waiting for them,” he said.
But the Public Relations Officer, FMC Yenagoa, Mr. Bernard Akpedi, said that the management had appealed to the workers to return to work.

“We had appealed to them to be patient as the management is working to resolve the short payments caused by budgetary shortfall. We got assurances that as from June, we shall be getting our full salaries and arrears. If they have waited from January till date, it is only reasonable that they wait a little more,” Akpedi noted.

While decrying the bad situation, a patient, Mr. Ebitimi Daniels, said the industrial action was taking a negative toll on public health as patients were bearing the brunt of the strike.
“It is unfortunate that we are the ones suffering from this strike. Some of us cannot afford the exorbitant bills at the private hospitals. The management and staff do not feel our pains,” he maintained.

Another patient, Mr. Julius Michael, said he was happy that the workers would resume in line with the directive of the Ayuba Wabba-led faction of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), but was disappointed when the workers refused to call of the action.
“I thought that they would resume work here, but I was told that the strike that was called off only concerned the hike in the price of petrol, and did not pertain to the health workers,’’ he lamented.