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Activities at National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu were paralyzed on Friday, as striking workers staged a peaceful protest at the hospital premises over poor working conditions.
The workers, who protested under the Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions (JACTU), brandished placards, chanted Christian songs and moved round the hospital in procession, appealing to relevant authorities to intervene in their plight.
Some of the inscriptions in the placards brandished by the protesters read: ‘We say no to stagnation’, ‘We reject injustice’, ‘No pay no work’, ‘Pay us uniform allowances’, ‘Give us working materials’.
Briefing journalists after the protest which lasted about two hours, Comrade Cyprian Orjinta, the JACTU spokesman said they wished to use the medium to draw the attention of the people of South-East and President Muhammadu Buhari to the institutionalized oppression and subjugation of the entire workers of National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu.
According to Orjinta, the failure of the management of the hospital to take the welfare, safety and security of their workers seriously has created untold hardship for the workers and patients at large.
He said the issues in contention in the hospital include lack of working tools and collapsing infrastructure, stagnation of their members after promotion, persistent shortfalls in personnelle allocation and backlog of salary arrears and arrears of promotion.
“As we speak, we recently lost two of our staff to the cold hands of death due largely to the fact that they could not afford treatment for their ailments. These gallant staff could have been alive today if all the backlog of salaries and arrears owed to them were paid. May their souls, rest in peace, Amen.
“The workers having endured these pains for years and also having issued management a cumulative 35 days notice without reply, declared an indefinite strike action on Thursday 27th of April, 2017 to press home our demands” Orjinta.
He noted that in the hospital, a lot of tools are needed to effectively discharge their duties, but tools such as hand gloves, face mask and scrub have become luxury in National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu, leaving workers to attend to their patients with their bare hands and exposing workers and patients to health hazards.
He said their laboratories lack relevant reagents, thus making the diagnosis of ailments for effective management of patients impossible, even as prosthetic and orthotic department have not had working materials for the past 2 years.
Orjinta regretted that the hospitals lack office spaces for very senior staff while most of their equipments are in a state of total disrepair.
“What we do have dotting our landscape are a plethora of abandoned projects. We totally reject these and they must be addressed.
“We observed shortly after the 2016 promotion exercise that all our workers who were promoted from CONHESS 11 and above were not advanced to the next salary grade. Even those from CONHESS 2 to 9 who were advanced were placed on step 1 irrespective of the step on previous grade. We totally reject this as it is against all known extant rules on promotion” he said.
The union leader noted with dismay the steady decline in funds released to the payment of staff salaries in recent years, which has made it a tradition that National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu cannot pay the salaries of workers for 12 months in a year.
“Currently, our staff who are paid through the GIFMIS platform have been receiving only about 67 percent of their salaries since January 2017. We reject this and demand immediate solution” Orjinta said.
On backlog of salary arrears and arrears of promotion, Orjinta lamented that the entire staff of the hospital were being owed October 2016 salary and most of the staff several months of arrears of salaries, even as promotion arrears from 2011 to 2016 remain outstanding.
He noted that all these issues have greater negative impact on poor Nigerian masses, especially the South-Easterners who come to access medical services in the hospital.
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