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‘Between Syrian and Nigerian health workers’

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Sir: I’m really stumped. What with strike action every time in Nigeria embarked upon by health workers trained to save lives. Sometimes you hear the harangue of medical personnel and the display of egoistic attitudes against others in the medical profession that they consider their junior in the pecking order. I have had to ask: what is the use of fighting for titles at a huge cost to lives? What happened to medical ethics? Syrian hospitals are increasingly being targeted in that country’s conflict which continues unabated. Victims include civilians and military personnel injured by bombs and bullets. Medical staff are also among the victims, but doctors and health workers continue to keep working, refusing to close hospitals down and embodying the ethics of the Hippocratic Oath those doctors and others in the health sector pledge to uphold.

The spate of strikes and industrial action by those in the medical profession in Nigeria is increasingly alarming. If Nigerian hospitals were being bombed in a systematic way, one could perhaps concede that feelings of fear and hopelessness could motivate people who work there to want to pack up and go home.

So what are the issues in our hospitals that drive staff to down the instruments of their calling and withhold their services to humanity? The short answer is not the threat to life and limb as is the case in Syria. One of the driving forces behind the medical profession’s industrial actions is demand for pay increases and allowances. Other matters of concern include the lack of response by the Federal Government to doctors’ demands regarding implementation of the National Health Bill, signed in 2014. Aspects of a job-evaluation committee report commissioned in 2008 have yet to be applied. Union members are asking for a re-constitution of management boards for teaching hospitals.

While healthcare workers’ unions continue unsuccessfully to negotiate with Federal Government representatives, hospitals remain understaffed and unable to meet community needs. Where do seriously injured and sick people turn for help when traditionally they have turned to health workers? How many people are dying every day through lack of medical services? Does the mortality rate due to industrial strikes prick any consciences in the medical industry or political field? The flame for habitual humanity diminishes quickly in Nigeria even though the chance to help suffering people is cathartic to the care-giver. Alcoholics anonymous members know this but Nigerian health workers and governments do not seem to appreciate this knowledge.

Who is going to help schizophrenic and delusional people whose conditions are exacerbated by alcohol and cannabis abuse? Do you have any thoughts?  Look to Professor Dele Owolawi’s speech-mark above. It is the answer to all troubles on earth.
• Simon Abah. 


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