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Medical workers threaten strike over health bill, professional discrimination

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Josiah Biobelemoye


Industrial crisis is brewing in the health sector once again as medical workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) are threatening to down tools over amendment of five health bills and alleged professional discrimination by Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Chairman Senate Committee on health.  

The Chairman of JOHESU, Josiah Biobelemoye, who disclosed this in Abuja, accused Oloriegbe of shutting other health professionals from the public hearing on the five health bills.  
 
While calling on the Senate President to replace Oloriegbe as chairman of the committee, Biobelemoye said the Senator exhibited bias for medical doctors during the public hearing. 

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Specifically, he explained that every attempt made by other professionals such as laboratory scientists, radiographers and other professionals to contribute to the debate on the health bills were rebuffed by the Senator.
  
Biobelemoye, who doubles as the President of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), expressed fear that if the committee is allowed to present its recommendations, such proposals would be jaundiced and in favour of one professional group in the health and medical sector. 
  
The five unions under JOHESU include Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN); National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP); Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI); Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Assembly of HealthCare Professional Associations (AHPA). 
   
He added: “JOHESU and Assembly of HealthCare Professional Associations (AHPA) hereby apart from apology on this unfortunate incidence demand that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2020 under consideration should be stepped down until all litigations on the existing Act are decided and resolved.” 
   
“JOHESU and AHPA warn that if this burning issues and other demands of health workers are not resolved as soon as possible, we can no longer guarantee industrial peace in the health sector nationwide.” 
   
JOHESU declared that Oloriegbe’s action was not only unfortunate, but undemocratic, discriminatory, and un-parliamentary, saying it also violated its members’ rights to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. 
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It demanded an unreserved apology from the law maker or he should prepare to face the wrath of JOHESU members through all possible legitimate means.  
   
JOHESU added that the purpose of the public hearing was defeated because other critical stakeholders who submitted memoranda ahead of time were not allowed to make presentations even though sufficient time was given to medical practitioners and affiliated bodies. 
   
It held that as the sponsor of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCAN) bill Senator Oloriegbe displayed high level of bias against other health professionals during the public hearing. 
  
The unions also asserted that Senator Oloriegbe as a Medical Practitioner and interested party in the bill is not eligible to preside over a public hearing of that nature on moral ground.
  
On his part, the National President of Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, Prof James Damen said it is wrong for medical doctors to have the responsibility of supervising other health professionals. 
   
The first Vice President of Association of Radiographers of Nigeria, Ifeoma Iketi also frowned at the conduct of Dr Oloriegbe at the public hearing, saying, “he has always a little fair in his conducts before now. His attitude yesterday was below the standards he has set for himself over the years. We had a list that contained all the presenters. But he shut all of us out and was calling only Medical Doctors. Doctors are interested in acquiring territory and not to improve the health sector.”  

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JOHESUJosiah Biobelemoye
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