The coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate has emphasised the government’s commitment to addressing the concerns of health workers in Nigeria.
Pate made this statement during an event titled “Renewed Hope for Nigeria’s Health and Social Welfare” in Abuja over the weekend, following a three-day ministerial briefing organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
In his address, Pate acknowledged that the strikes by health workers in the country were rooted in a complex set of issues, including poor working conditions, inadequate salaries, delayed salary payments, job insecurity and insufficient leadership and management. He stressed that it was imperative to address these issues comprehensively to prevent future strikes and enhance the healthcare system in Nigeria.
“The problem of health workers going on strike is a longstanding issue that is deeply rooted in a lack of trust. We have engaged constructively with various health associations in the country to address their concerns. All health workers share the pain of watching people suffer when they could be saving lives,” Pate explained.
He reported that discussions with health worker associations, held specifically on September 6, 2023, had yielded positive outcomes. The issues primarily revolved around salary and wage commission matters and public service rules, some of which fell under the purview of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Prof. Pate expressed optimism that the collaborative path chosen by the government and health worker associations would lead to lasting harmony. “We will continue to negotiate in good faith and, where we differ, we will do so respectfully,” he stated.
Among the demands put forth by health workers were the immediate approval and implementation of the technical committee report on the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) adjustment, as well as the prompt payment of outstanding COVID-19 hazard/inducement allowances for affected health workers in federal health institutions.
Additionally, the health workers sought the unconditional implementation of the pharmacist consultant cadre, the immediate payment of withheld salaries at various healthcare institutions, and the settlement of salary arrears for specific months in 2018.
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Health Care Professional Associations (AHPA), represent the interests of health workers in Nigeria, excluding medical doctors and dentists. This union encompasses several health worker unions and associations, including the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWN), Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASUEAI) and the Senior Staff Association of universities, teaching hospitals, research institutes and associated institutions.
Pate’s reassurance reflects the government’s recognition of the vital role health workers play in delivering healthcare services and the determination to address their concerns effectively, fostering a harmonious working relationship in the healthcare sector.