Health Workers’ Strike will Endanger Lives of Patients, Ehanire Warns

Minister of state for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has warned that the ongoing seven-day warning strike by health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), could jeopardise the lives of patients at the various medical facilities across the country.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja during the media briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Ehanire appealed to the JOHESU to call off their strike, to avoid the risks to lives of citizens, especially as the country us battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister, said while it was gratifying that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has called off their strike, it was rather unhelpful that JOJESU has begun theirs, as their grievances can be resolved through negotiations.

“Nigeria needs the service of all her health workers, to control COVID-19 spread. Issues around allowances are multisectoral and have always been solved with negotiations, no matter how long it took.

“I acknowledge the commitment of health workers who continue to man the frontlines in the fight against this disease and use this opportunity to appeal to JOHESU to suspend their industrial action, not to erode gains we have since made in health care delivery”, the minister said.

Ehanire assured that the Federal Ministry of Health is doing all within its power to expedite processes that address the bones of contention.

The minister reiterated that the declining positivity rate every day does not mean that Nigeria is finally halting the spread. He revealed that some states have not sustained the testing rate that would give government more assurance, that it is finally halting spread of the virus.

“Only 13 States, for example, reported their figures in the past 24 hours. This can be better. Until all parts of the country can sustain a certain testing rate, it would seem presumptuous to conclude that we are flattening the curve.

“In the words of Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), we are not safe until everyone is safe,” he said even as he again called on state governments to ramp up their testing momentum.

He also advised intending travelers to and out of Nigeria to acquaint themselves with the regulations and Provisional Quarantine Protocol.

“Our primary concern is to limit the risk of importation of COVID-19 virus to our country, especially with increasing flights to Nigeria, and for this purpose, we have remained vigilant.

“Our Health system should not be overwhelmed by new imports, even as we struggle to contain the epidemic in country”, Ehanire said.

He noted that there are no reliable new therapeutics available and vaccines are up to one year away.

“There is no doubt that the economy needs to be reopened for business and commerce to resume. To compensate for the risks this may bring, we all need to follow the preventive advisories. That is our individual contribution,” the minister said.