HEALTH workers at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (Dash) in the Nasarawa State capital Lafia have embarked upon a seven-day strike to press for adequate provision of personal protective equipments (PPE) and improved welfare as they combat Covid-19.
Nigeria currently has 13,464 cases of coronavirus, of which there have been 365 fatalities, although Nasarawa State has generally only been mildly affected. Across the state, there have only been 113 cases of which there have been five deaths but the Nasarawa State government is poorly equipped to deal with the pandemic.
Staff at state hospitals and isolation centres have complained about inadequate PPE gear and are also unhappy about the poor working conditions under which they have to operate. Following the expiration of an ultimatum to the state governor, resident doctors and other health workers at the Dash facility in Lafia commenced a strike.
Among the striking health workers are members of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), the Association of Resident Doctors (Ard) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. Alizi Maga, the chairman of NANNM at the hospital, who spoke on behalf of the various unions, said that the strike became necessary following the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum given to the state government.
Mr Maga explained that their demands included provision of adequate PPE, the implementation of Covid-19 hazard allowances as well as the introduction of an insurance scheme for their members fighting the pandemic. He added the unions also want the implementation of their pending promotion for 13 years, among others.
According to Mr Maga, the unions would embark on an indefinite industrial action after the seven-day warning strike if the state government failed to meet their demands. Dr Idoko Peter, the chairman of Ard at the hospital, said the negligence by the government had led to their members being infected with coronavirus.
Dr Peter said that due to lack PPEs, 21 health workers in the state had been infected with Covid-19 while carrying out their duties. He urged the state government to address the issues raised to avoid a shutdown of the hospital.
Reacting to the development, Dr Hassan Ikrama, the chief medical director of the hospital said the health workers were negotiating with the state government to address their concerns. Ahmed Yahaya, the Nasarawa State commissioner for health, appealed to the workers to consider the plight of patients in the facility and suspend the strike, assuring them that the state government was working towards meeting their demands soon.