Labour Tasks FG, States on Improvement of Health Sector

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…Demands payment of salary arrears to health workers

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Organised labour has urged the federal and state government to take advantage of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic to redirect investment in country’s health sector.

The labour movement regretted that successive governments have failed to take healthcare as top priority beyond mere policy statements.

Labour also urged the federal government to pay the two months salaries owed health workers arising from an industrial dispute in 2018.

It expressed worry that the recent seven days warning strike by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) to resolve the outstanding issues is yet to receive the attention of government.

President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba who made the charge at a press conference to
mark the year 2020 Global Day of Action on Care last Thursday, said that it took the
outbreak of COVID-19, for federal and state governments in the country to wake up to the reality of the decadence in the healthcare sector.

He said there is the need to invest heavily in the health sector as no country survives without effective health care.

“With the massive resources at our government’s disposal, Nigeria can afford to build and effectively equip some of the best hospitals in the world, with global best practices and personnel.

“But successive governments failed to take healthcare as a top priority beyond mere policy statements.

“We believe now is the time for our government at all levels to demonstrate more than keen attention on the health sector. The current pandemic has shown how important healthcare is to all sectors and citizens of any country,” he said.

Wabba said this year’s Day of Action on Care came at a most auspicious time as the world undergoes a very challenging period occasioned by the sudden outbreak of the novel COVID-19, which has caused a pandemic of scary dimensions across the world; endangering everyone on earth, with care workers and other frontline health personnel encountering more serious risks.

In addition, the NLC president said the theme for this year’s event was apt as it highlighted the urgent need for massive investment in the care sector.

He said: “COVID-19 has fully exposed several countries, including Nigeria as not having invested enough in our health care institutions, putting everyone, both rich and poor at high risks.

“The theme: ‘’Invest in Care Now!’’ is to drum up demands for heavy investments in the care sector by our government and big businesses, if we must keep a healthy society and productive human resource base.

“Apart from the open fact that our healthcare sector has been neglected for too long, healthcare workers have been subjected to unfair treatment for too long.”

According to Wabba, essential workers do not have the necessary personal protective equipment to work with, especially before the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Government waited for the pandemic before it woke up to the reality of the decadence in our health care sector. Even now, enough has not been done to properly equip the sector and properly kit health workers across the country.”

Wabba further said that COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the risks health care workers face daily in the course of their duties as they don’t have adequate and appropriate safety gears, access to their own health care, extended to their families as well as decent pay commensurate with the work they do.

He said health care workers need standard daycare centres to keep their children when schools are not open and or infants that are not of school age, to enable them concentrate on their work.

He said it is also important that health workers are granted paid medical leave that include their immediate families.

“This will help to curb the spread of airborne diseases they are exposed to at their workplaces.
We also advocate full membership of trade unions by all health workers, including those in private facilities.

“This will give them coverage to demand for their rights and enable unions monitor safety standards at the care centres or hospitals. This will form part of our campaign in support of healthcare workers across the country in both public and private sectors.

“We will carry out these campaigns in collaboration with our affiliates in the health sector and also in partnership with willing associations or organisations among civil society organisations.

“We also demand a quick conclusion on negotiations on salary adjustment for JOHESU members in line with alternative dispute resolution processes of National Industrial Court of Nigeria, which all parties involved in the negotiation were subjected to.

“Finally, we call for an end to all forms of medical tourism especially by our elected and appointed public officials, NLC president said.