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Fresh Crises Looms in Nigeria’s Health Sector

by hr

4 separate unions of health staff are set to join the striking Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals by October 31, if agreements reached months ago with federal government are not announced throughout the civil service in circulars. “Only NUAHP is on strike now. Other 4 will join from Saturday,” NUAHP President Felix Faniran confirmed to Health Reporters (HR) in a phone interview.  “By October 31, if government has not met our demands, all the other unions will join us.”

NUAHP—formerly Nigerian Union of Pharmacists, Medical Technologists and Professionals Allied to Medicine (NUPMTPAM)—consists physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists, pharmacists, medical imaging scientists/radiographers, dieticians, dental technologists, dental therapists, occupational therapists, optometrists, medical social workers, clinical psychologists.

NUAHP membership excludes doctors and nurses though there are indications nurses “may join” the strike, Faniran said.

Also to join in the industrial action are medical and health workers unions, senior and junior health staff, engineers and suppliers in health institutions. The intended strike will leave only doctors manning hospitals from next week. NUAHP went on strike on October 16 after an ultimatum to federal government to put agreement between both sides on circular expired on September 30.

It said government had signed agreements in series of meetings but had so far refused to publish the decisions reached in circulars for the civil service and government units to take note and implement. Since October 16, the union said scheduled meetings with the ministries of health, labour and productivity alongside government agencies like the National Salaries and Wages Commission and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, but it said none of the meetings have held.

“We have begun, and we are not going to suspend this strike until they are done. It is not a new issue. They are already aware, they assured us that [they] have done those things. So if they are telling lies, let the public take a decision.” The latest agreements were signed in August, when government promised it would issue circulars, said Faniran. “Why have they not issued them? They are deceiving us.”

Top on NUAHP claims was lopsided appointment and advertisement for chief medical directors. The association said government “reneged on the agreement when advertising [positions] for CMD at [Lagos University Teaching Hospital and Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital]. We want them to restore the quality and integrity of that agreement.” It also demands that the post of DCMAC (deputy chairman of medical advisory committee) created by tertiary hospital administrations be abolished for being illegal.

A major point is arrears arising from modified pay structure that came from a collective-bargain agreement to allow health workers skip CONHESS 10, which has been implemented for doctors, but denied other health workers, and specialist allowances going back to January 2010. “Budget is completed in so many institutions. If you do not capture them now, they will not enter 2015 budget. They are very urgent.”

The union also demands circular publicising a separate department for medical lab scientists and other professionals it said were “currently being marginalised” by doctors, adjustment in retirement age from 60 to 65 for non-professorial cadres and 65 to 70 for professorial cadres.

“Apart from the fact that the agreements reached with us last year August have been repudiated while some are out rightly unimplemented, a number of new demands have been made which up till now are unaddressed,” the union maintained days after its strike started. Health and labour ministries could not be reached for comments by Health Reporters.

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