Ngige Calls For Peace In Health Sector | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ngige Calls For Peace In Health Sector

Ngige; health sector
Posted: Jul 25, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The recent call by Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige for industrial peace in the health sector is quite apt but the government needs to provide the enabling environment for this to happen by honouring the various agreements to improve the sector.

The minister was reported to have made the call at the closing ceremony marking the 40th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Optometric Association held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He was represented at the event by the Rivers State Co-ordinator of the National Directorate of Employment (NDA), Mr Nnamdi Asomugha.

The former Governor of Anambra State and former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reportedly appealed to unions in the health sector to ensure maintenance of industrial peace and harmony to enable the Federal Government address the critical needs of the healthcare system.

The minister was quoted to have said: “When all the stakeholders in the health sector restrain their unions from disruptive strikes, the federal government’s programme to enhance health services would be attained”.

It is worrisome that the minister was advocating that federal government’s programme for healthcare delivery would not be attained until stakeholders in the health sector restrain their unions from disruptive strikes. What this therefore means is that the federal government and Nigeria’s health sector currently under the leadership of Ngige are not bothered that the lingering avoidable strikes by doctors and other health workers have not only paralysed activities in the sector but  also claimed incalculable number of precious lives.

We observe with dismay that the constant disruptive industrial strikes in the health sector are as a result of government’s failure to provide the enabling environment for doctors and other categories of health workers to operate successfully. What are the measures government has put in place to prevent unions in the health sector from going on strike?

It is shameful that 56 years after independence, government hospitals in Nigeria are mere consulting clinics in spite of the scandalous budgeting allocations successive administrations claimed to have provided the health sector. The situation since the return of democratic dispensation in 1999 is not different.

Comparatively, federal government’s budgetary allocation to health in 2016 was N6, 077,680,000.00 as against N4,498,363,957,158  in 2015. Total for recurrent expenditure in 2016 was N221, 712,151,746.00 compared with N237.075, 742,847 in 2015 while for capital expenditure in 2016, it was N 35,670,000,000 as against N22,676,000,000 in 2015.

Allocation to hospitals and tertiary institutions in 2016 was N215, 605,735,090.00 compared with N226,536,924, 598 in 2015.  Arrears of 2014 salary increase for medical doctors and other health workers stood at N11, 100,000.000 in 2015 as against N5, 000,000,000.00 in 2016.

The health sector is perhaps the most important of all the critical sectors of the economy, especially in view of its role in saving human lives. This is why government should pay urgent attention to genuine demands of doctors and other health workers, as well as those issues affecting healthcare delivery in the country.

Doctors and other health workers, by virtue of the special nature of their profession, should not be denied their lawful entitlements as this is the only way to motivate them to provide excellent services.

The minister should without delay, invite the unions in the health sector for dialogue on the raging outstanding issues concerning their working conditions with a view to finding lasting amicable solution to the problems that have led to virtual collapse of the health sector. Further deadlock in agreements between government and the striking health workers should be averted as this is the only way to end further loss of human lives and also ensure ordinary Nigerians can easily access healthcare services promptly.

Finally, government must fulfill its promise to stop public officials from seeking medical treatment abroad with effect from January 2017. If enforced, this policy will compel government to fix its fast decaying health sector for the benefit of the rich and the poor, as well as control medical tourism draining the foreign reserves of the country.