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COOUTH health workers to strike indefinitely

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Several industrial actions taken by the health workers yielded no results.

The Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH) Awka, members of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) Anambra State Chapter, have been warned that they will go on an indefinite strike on November 29 if Governor Charles Soludo does not step in to meet their demand. Given the warning in Nnewi recently, the Anambra State Chairman of the NUAHP, Mr. Charles Nwoye, said that the COOUTH Chapter of the union had put off the industrial action several times because of government interventions that didn’t work. He said that the workers wouldn’t compromise anymore.

According to Mr. Nwoye, members of the union at COOUTH were being discriminated against and neglected in terms of their welfare and conditions of service. In addition to that, he mentioned that the members of the union were struggling with some Human Rights issues. In the first place, they had a problem with the non-regularization of several of the workers who were staff at the former General Hospital, which was eventually taken over by the COOUTH during the administration of the former Governor Peter Obi.

The hospital prioritized new employees over former ones.

While the Ministry of Health still has its pre-COOUTH staff in place, the hospital’s original employees laid the groundwork for the facility. Some of the staff at the general hospital were offered the choice of leaving or staying at the teaching hospital when it was taken over. For the sake of completing the teaching hospital, some volunteered to remain. Even though the hospital has been built, the employees who contributed to its development over a long period of time have been left with the Ministry of Health’s working conditions and welfare benefits. This is different from what happens at a teaching hospital.

However, when the teaching hospital employs new staff and promotes them, the former ones are being paid by the Ministry. If a more experienced professional replaces an existing worker, the latter will be promoted because of the newcomer’s seniority. The Chairman voiced his dissatisfaction with the fact that an individual who is younger than him will be promoted ahead of someone who is supposed to be his superior. He urged Governor Soludo to step in and stabilize the situation.

Demand made by the members has not been attended to.

It was reported that Mr. Joe Akabike, the COOUTH’s Chief Medical Director, was made aware of the situation but did nothing to rectify it. Mr. Nwoye stated that the Commissioner for Health, State Government Secretary, and Deputy Governor were all aware of the union members’ demands. In the absence of Governor Soludo’s intervention, he insisted that the deadline of November 29, when the strike would start, remained sacred. He added that the patience of health workers and professionals, as well as their understanding, should not be underestimated.

Mr. Nwoye said that they have been restrained so far because they care about the patients’ lives, but if their demands aren’t met, they will be forced to go on strike. They’ve been making moves to ensure the State government has the time and space it needs to address the demands of their members, he said. One of the issues brought up by the workforce is that the Anambra State government has not yet begun paying the 2014 Consolidated Health Salary Structure adjustments (CONHESS). According to the Chairman, the State has only paid 80% of the CONHESS so far instead of the full 100% that was originally promised.

New strike day remains intact if the Governor fails to intervene.

Therefore, they are appealing to the revered Governor, Professor Charles Soludo, to save the health workers who are employed at COOUTH. It’s been 24 days since the strike was originally scheduled to begin, and now they’re issuing a fresh ultimatum because the Governor still needs to act on their concerns. They changed what they were doing to make a peaceful solution possible. There was another extension, which runs out on November 29. As State Chairman, he begged the Governor to step in quickly.


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