By Mustapha Usman, Kano
Many patients seeking treatment at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH, are unable to access proper health care due to the strike action embarked upon by the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, more than two weeks ago.
JOHESU, an umbrella union comprising Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, National Union of Allied Health Professional, NUAP, and National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwife, NAMM, had resolved to embark on an indefinite strike as a result of “stagnation and lack of promotion of members”.
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that since the health workers downed tools on March 13, most health services have stopped completely at AKTH, the main teaching hospital in Kano state, serving hundreds of thousands of people from both within and outside the state.
Our reporter visited the AKTH and observed that the strike action had paralyzed services at the hospital as only the resident doctors were present to render services in skeletal form – a situation that inflicted hardship on patients.
It was observed that one of the most critical units of the hospital, the Dialysis Unit, has also been shut down, causing a number of reported deaths of patients who were scheduled to have regular dialysis sessions prior to the industrial actions.
Our reporter learnt that the categories of patients who were affected the most by closure of the dialysis unit are those suffering from kidney ailments and hepatitis.
At the Dialysis Unit, DAILY NIGERIAN observed that only one patient, who was suffering from hepatitis C and kidney problem was undergoing the dialysis.
A source at the unit, who pleaded for anonymity, revealed that “five patients had already lost their lives during the first week of the industrial action because they could not have the regular dialysis they supposed to have”, while others were forced to transfer to private dialysis centres within and outside Kano State.
The source added that some patients, before being transferred had spent sleepless nights in severe pains due to the lack of proper treatment caused by the strike, as others that could not afford to pay at other centres were forced to continue to suffer at their respective homes without treatments.
“Let me tell you the truth, had you come at the first week of the strike, you could not control your tears as the patients were screaming and crying in severe pains because we were barred from giving them the dialysis by the union. The situation was very pathetic,” the source said.
“Out of compassion, some of the staff decided to volunteer to come and treat the patients in order to reduce the rate of the death. They defied the union’s directives and continued to serve the patients despite the fact that they are part of the strike.
“Seeing the condition of the patients, you must commend them for their effort to defy the directive in a bid to save the lives of the people.
“Look at that patient,” he pointed at a woman. “She was sent back home as a result of the strike. Thank God we have her number. We suddenly gave her a call and her husband picked up the call. We told him to bring her to the hospital for the continued dialysis and he told us that he has no money to pay and he already owed us some balances. We called our officer and she granted the permission to attend to them. This is the reason you can see her having the dialysis”.
The source said that the staff were rendering the dialysis in batches, saying, “we did it for five patients on Monday, 3 patients on Tuesday, today (Wednesday) as you can see, it is only one patient. Tomorrow (Thursday) we hope to do it for 3 patients. That is how we would continue to help the patients until the strike is called off.”
The source also called on the warring parties to resolve the dispute amicably to save the patients, advising that a law banning medical workers from strike should be made.
Meanwhile, speaking on the reason for the industrial action, vice chairman of the JOHESU, AKTH chapter, Tijjani Abdu, said they were on the strike due to stagnation of their members, meaning failure of the Federal Civil Service Commission to place their members on the proper salary scale even after promotion.
“Our staff from CONHESS 11 to above would sit for promotion examination. They would pass the examination. They would be given the letter of congratulations and their position would be budgeted for but they would remain on the same grade level. If you are on CONHESS 11, you would sit for the examination and pass but you would remain on the CONHESS 11. So also 12, 13 and above,” he said
Mr Abdu said they had followed all the proper channels to lodge their complaints but it went into deaf ears, adding that they were not listened to despite the two-week warning strike they embarked on.
According to him, the union was unwilling to go on strike as it was aware of the suffering the decision would cause, adding that the careless attitude of the authorities concerned was what prompted them to proceed on the industrial action as a last resort.
He appealed to the public to understand their position as they were not on strike based on salary, noting that they were striving to fix the problem at stake as it would affect their career after retirement.
He also said that the union was concerned about the plight of the patients, adding “that is why we decided to leave some critical units such as the dialysis unit to attend to patients there. We urge you to help us with prayers in our resolve to serve you better,” he said.