The Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, has assured health workers that the Federal Government would do everything to ensure that incessant strike is no longer witnessed in the health sector, henceforth.
Mamora gave the assurance as the national leadership of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Association of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA), honoured 14 senators and 32 members of the House of Representatives, for their rewarding contributions to the struggle of health workers and enthronement of good healthcare in the country.
The minister, who was the chairman of the event held at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, said the ministry would ensure that health workers do not embark on strike anytime soon.
According to the minister, conflicts of interests must arise between the Federal Government and the workers, but the present administration, he said would toe the path of dialogue with a view to finding common grounds in the interest of the nation, especially at a time of global health emergency like this.
“We cannot say there won’t be conflicts but the important thing is for us to resolve and respect the principles of fair play and justice. There will always be room for dialogue, because none of us has all the answers, wisdom, and knowledge of the issues affecting the health sector.
“We have no other country but Nigeria, so we must continue to dialogue and jointly agree to toe the path that will be beneficial to all and sundry.”
The NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in his address raised the issue of bias and inequality in the sector, adding that health workers were concerned with the problems of inequality and how it affected access to healthcare.
He stressed the need for team work among stakeholders, saying that Nigeria’s story of poor health indices would change for good if industrial peace was maintained.
The chairman of JOHESU and president of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN); Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, kicked against the planned privatization of health institutions and facilities owned by the Federal Government.
He pointed out that the members of JOHESU were opposed to the proposed privatisation of government-owned health institutions, adding that their position was not only patriotic but also in the interest of the masses.
Comrade Biobelemoye stated that despite the privatisation of more than half of the nation’s health facilities, the challenges of healthcare delivery had not reduced.
According to him, “Commercialisation, privatisation and Public Private Partnership are policies that have failed and which Europe is rejecting today. The developed world is rejecting them but some people are planning to institute them in Nigeria.
“According to directors of health institutions in Nigeria, less than a quarter of public health institutions are in the hands of government with the rest owned and managed by private hands. Yet this has not changed the indices that began to nosedive 35 years ago in Nigeria.
“They want us to believe that only when all public health institutions are taken out that health can be affordable to Nigerians. We stand against this and want the Ministry of Health to reason along with us. We are agitators of patriotic call of health for all Nigerians.”
Comrade Biobelemoye cited the earlier proposal to privatise the Trauma Centre at Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital in Abuja, when the union stood against its sale and secured the support of lawmakers to stop the proposal.
“When the centre was put up for sale, we brought it out to the public. It was to be sold to someone who had less than £15,000 in his account despite the fact that the centre was built at the cost of over N800 million.
“We knew that once that was done, it would be out of the reach of the poor. We resisted the idea with the aid of the House of Representatives members.”
The JOHESU chairman called on the Federal Ministry of Health to reject the idea of privatisation as a solution to the challenges of healthcare delivery in the country, adding that labour would continue to seek the support of the National Assembly to ensure that masses got the quality healthcare delivery that they deserved.
“Our members in the National Assembly have helped us to achieve a lot as a health union because they understand that our members stand for making health available to the people.”
In appreciation of their contributions, 12 Senators and 34 House of Representatives members were honoured at the event. Notable among them are Senators Abdullahi Sabi Aliyu; Betty Apiafi; Akinyelure Ayo; Mustapha Ramoni, saidu Umar; and Shehu Kokale. Among the members of House of Representatives are: the Deputy Speaker Rt. Hon Ahmed Wase, Adebayo Olusegun; Francis Waive; Adeyemi Adaramodu; Onuh Blessing; Taofeek Ajilesoro and Jimin Sukpo.