As the strike declared by health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) bites harder, the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, have hurriedly discharged patients admitted in the hospitals.
This is because majority of the nurses that should care for them have joined the industrial action.
The development has compelled the Federal Government to appeal to JOHESU to call off the strike.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said that government was working assiduously towards addressing the demands of the health workers.
Investigations by ionigeria revealed that about 90 per cent of patients on admission at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, have so far been discharged.
Also in LUTH, a reliable source told ionigeria that majority of the over 300 patients admitted in the teaching hospital have been discharged, leaving only 120 patients in the wards, due to non-availability of nurses, majority of who are also on strike.
A source at the hospital told our correspondent that after discharging the patients, the LUTH management had to merge some wards, bringing the remaining patients together, as a strategy to manage the situation, the source said.
She said: “As at Friday, the management of LUTH had discharged up to 40 patients on admission in the hospital.
“By yesterday, more patients had been asked to go, leaving 120 patients only in the wards to enable the few nurses at the cadre of management staff to care for them.”
According to the source, “to make it possible for the top nurses to cope with the huge workload, patients from different wards were merged into the same ward.”
Similarly, going by the strike, which was declared on Wednesday, September 20, most patients who had arrived both LUTH and the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital to seek care yesterday, did not meet their expectations in terms of service provisioning.
ionigeria learnt that most patients were told to return on a fresh date, as even record officials at the hospitals were also involved in the strike.
Consequently, it was only patients whose case notes were handy with the doctors that were attended to, while those whose registration card could not be retrieved by striking record staff were given new appointment dates.
According to our correspondents, health record officials and medical and dental practitioners only attended to some outpatients whose registrations cards were handy with the doctors.
One of the patients that was given a new appointment date, because her card could not be retrieved, lamented that she came from Okokomaiko. “It is sad that I have to return home without any doctor attending to me. I don’t know how I can cope for the next two weeks as I have run out of medications prescribed for me during my last hospital consultation.”
Similarly, our correspondent reported that the hospital pharmacy at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital was under lock and key because of the strike.
This development made the patients get their drugs at nearby pharmacy shops yesterday. At one of such stores, Phamasolutions, which was located at 25, Montogomery Road, Yaba, some patients lamented having to pay more than double for the drugs in the private pharmacy.
One of the outpatients, Aghedo Patrica, who was given a new appointment date, reacted, saying: “I am begging government to help end this strike. We are suffering. The cost of the medicine in private pharmacy is too expensive. Buying the medicine from government hospital is cheaper and convenient.”
A nurse at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatrist Hospital hinted that the strike has kept him working harder than normal because he was the only one present to monitor the patients at Wards M4, F4, Adeoye Lambo Ward (drug unit) and Adejoke Orikoya Ward.
He concluded that government should make positive move to meet the demand of the health workers.
The secretary of Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Mr. Omoyemi Abioye, said that the effect of the strike has been a great disaster at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos.
At LUTH, many patients complained of the slow pace at which doctors were attending to them due to the health workers’ strike.
In the various clinics, the doctors were seen attending to a few patients.
At the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, the indefinite strike embarked upon by health workers is also taking a toll.
Only medical doctors, it was gathered, have been attending to in-patients at the hospital.
A source at the hospital told our correspondent yesterday that all health workers, except medical doctors and pharmacists, have deserted the institution.
The source, who is a nurse, disclosed that the hospital has ceased to admit new patients, pointing out the existing patients were being catered for by ward managers.
She said: “All of us are currently on strike. Only the NMA members and, probably the pharmacists, did not join the strike.
“Patients are still in the wards, but no new admission is being welcome. The in-patients, I mean those admitted in the wards prior to the strike, are being catered for by the ward managers who are mainly senior officers.
“But I think if their situation becomes unbearable, the institution may discharge them, because the nurses and health workers that are supposed to be the care-givers are not available.”
Some patients at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Keffi, Nasarawa State, have appealed to JOHESU to save further loss of lives by suspending its strike.
An in-patient, Mr. Joe Agbo, said: “The absence of nurses and other health workers is affecting our health negatively, because when doctors consult and make prescriptions, the nurses who should administer those prescriptions, are not available to do that.
“We are not happy about the situation because the less privileged who cannot afford to go to private hospitals are the ones at the receiving end of this strike.”
Another patient, Mrs. Fatima Abdullahi, urged the Federal Government and the union to reach a compromise for the sake of the masses.
Meanwhile, Ngige, in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday in Abuja, urged health workers to return to work to avoid unnecessary deaths.
While noting the deep regrets of government, he, however, maintained that JOHESU did not follow the due process of embarking on an industrial action as stated in the Trade Dispute Act 2004.
His words: Government deeply regretted the strike embarked upon by JOHESU and appealed to them to call off the industrial action and return to their different beats in the hospitals and institutions to avoid unnecessary hardship and death of patients.
“…Further, it is regrettable that the invitation extended to JOHESU by the Minister of Labour and Employment under the provision of this law for a meeting on Thursday, 21st September, 2017, was not honoured because JOHESU wanted to call out the unions’ member on strike, thereby disrupting services in the health institutions.
“For the avoidance of doubt, however, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, working in concert with the Ministry of Health, has fixed another conciliatory meeting for Tuesday, 26th September (today) by 2p.m.,” he said.
Ngige requested members of JOHESU to resume work as serious efforts are being made to meet their grievances.
Five bodies that constitute JOHESU are the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Non Academic Staff Union of Universities and Tertiary Institutions (NASU), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI).