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Tension as Bayelsa health workers strike shuts primary healthcare

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By Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa

The ongoing strike by Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Bayelsa Chapter has grounded Primary Healthcare Centres across the eight local government areas in the state.

The strike has hampered access to basic healthcare services like ante-natal for pregnant women and child immunisation at healthcentres across the eight council areas in Bayelsa.

The union which draws its membership mostly from primary health centres began an indefinite industrial action on Friday over non-payment of 15 months’ salary arrears.

The MHWUN chairman, Mr Barnabas Simon, who gave an update on the strike with Orient Daily on Saturday said the union embarked on the strike as the last option following expiration of earlier deadlines and fruitless meetings with government officials.

 He explained that the arrears owed the union members ranged from two to 15 months.

Simon expressed displeasure over many unresolved issues by the government as it affects primary health care workers in the state adding that after several talks, none of their demands have been implement.

He expressed regret that there were no signs from the government on meeting the demand for payment of the outstanding emoluments of the health workers to justify the pressure on union leaders to suspend the strike.

“The Bayelsa State Council of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria directed all her members to down tools from February 12 after the expiration ultimatum on February11, and so far the compliance is total.

“We have been holding meetings with state and local government officials and nothing concrete has been offered to the aggrieved workers, they have been asking us to suspend the strike and discussions are on.

“We made our position clear that we are open to dialogue and negotiations but what we really want is implementation of the prior discussions which we have had,” he said.

Mrs Ebiboere Michael, an expectant mother, told Orient Daily in a telephone chat that she had visited the Amarata Health Centre in Yenagoa but could not get attention for her antenatal care due to the strike.

“I was at the health centre on Friday but the health workers there were on strike and I had to go back. It is not even easy to go to another place to register again because of costs, so I have to wait and pray they resolve it,” Michael said.

Dr Newton Igwelle, Bayelsa commissioner for health, said that efforts were ongoing to resolve industrial action by MHWUN who had withdrawn services at health centres across the state.

 “I hope you know that these health workers are not employees of the state government? They are staff of the local governments and they are having discussions to resolve the dispute,” Igwelle said.

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