Abandonment remains the fate of the nation’s public hospitals
as the strike by the Joint Health Sector Union enters its 78th day.
FEMI ATOYEBI, SAM AWOYINFA, SUCCESS NWOGU
and BUKOLA ADEBAYO report
Usually, patients occupy the corridors, walkways and the waiting
areas in many public hospitals in the mornings, as they gather to
seek medical attention.
In fact, many leave their houses as early as 6am to join the long
queue of patients waiting to see doctors and other health
workers in the hospitals.
However, the ongoing strike by nurses, pharmacists,
radiotherapists, medical record officers and other cadre of health
workers in federal and state hospitals has changed this scenario.
Our correspondents, who visited some public hospitals in Ogun,
Oyo, Kwara and Lagos states, observed that rather than patients
waiting to see doctors, the opposite has become the case.
For instance, at the paediatric unit of the Ogun State General
Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta, on Tuesday, four doctors were sitting
idle in their clinic without any patient in sight.
Our correspondent overheard them complaining about the poor
turnout of patients since the strike started.
JOHESU members comprising pharmacists, radiographers,
nurses, physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists,
occupational therapists, optometrists, dieticians, medical social
workers, clinical psychologists and dental technicians have been
on strike since November 12.
They are kicking against their non-appointments into key
positions in hospitals as well as their non-promotion to the
position of consultants.
They are also demanding that the Federal Government adjust the
Consolidated Health Workers Salary Scale as it did for the
Nigerian Medical Association last year.
However, a female doctor, who eventually spoke to our
correspondent in Abeokuta, said crying babies and their mothers
were no longer common sight in the hospital. According to her,
the boisterous environment now looks like a deserted place,
especially as only skeletal services go on in the place.
She added, “Before now, there were days I would be on call duty
for two days just to be able to cope with emergencies. Now, the
whole place is empty. These days, I rarely sleep overnight. In
fact, I resume now by 9am and I leave by 3pm. Sometimes in a
day, we have just one patient seeking medical attention.
“I use this period to brush up on my medical knowledge and
other advancements in medicine relating to my field. But I wish
patients will still come around. We are working.”
The outpatient unit of the hospital also looked forsaken, while the
pharmacy was devoid of any activity.
The Federal Medical Centre, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, also looked more
like a ‘ghost community’ on Tuesday.
The Pharmacy, Accident/ Emergency ward, Maternity ward,
Antenatal/Post-natal wards, General Out-Patient department,
Surgical Theatre, Revenue unit, among others, were also under
lock and key.
In fact, even the majority of the patients on admission before the
strike commenced left the hospital on their own in spite of the
fact that doctors were on ground to attend to them.
The same scenario played out at the Olabisi Onabanjo University
Teaching Hospital, Sagamu.
A source, who craved anonymity for fear of sanction, said in all
the wards in the hospital, only six patients were on admission.
According to the source, many patients have gone to seek
medical attention in private hospitals.
For the chairperson, JOHESU-OOUTH chapter, Mrs. Kikelomo
Enaholo, the development was not surprising, considering the
scope of the industrial action.
The scenario was not different at the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital,
Aro, also in Abeokuta. One of the few doctors in the hospital
confirmed the development.
She said, “There is no patient in any of the wards, they have all
gone home. We cannot even accept new cases because it would
be suicidal to admit a psychiatric patient without the help of
supporting members of staff. Even the few outpatients come in
trickle these days.”
The ‘desertion syndrome’ did not fail to catch up with the
outpatient unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital,
Ikeja. On Tuesday when one of our correspondents visited the
establishment, the majority of the doctors available remained
idle, as the sick were not coming to seek medical assistance.
The dental and the emergency units of the hospital were also not
spared of the abandonment.
However, there were doctors attending to patients at the HIV
A doctor at the outpatient unit, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, attributed the abandonment in the hospital to
According to him, patients are not coming to the hospital
because they have the notion that every medical professional is
He said, “When patients hear that hospitals are on strike, they
assume that it is the whole workforce that is not working. This,
nonetheless, is not true. Doctors are on ground to attend to
emergencies, clinics and other non-emergency cases.
“We are not on strike. We are ready to do all we can for patients
till the strike is over.”
The University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, which used to
be the busiest medical institution in the city, is also a ghost town.
The dusty benches at the wards, locked doors and windows,
deserted lobbies and vacant car park are enough testimonies
that all is not well in the hospital.
When our correspondent visited the institution on Tuesday, there
was no single nurse or other supporting staff in the premises.
The few doctors on ground were just sitting in their offices with
no patient in sight.
The Chief Medical Director, Prof. Tope Alonge, was not around to
speak to our correspondent but the Public Relations Officer of the
institution, Deji Bobade, said only a few patients remained in the
Bobade said, “Doctors do come around but they are idle, so they
leave early. We have a few patients in all the wards that used to
accommodate no fewer than 1,000 patients. Medical training is
obviously affected because the students don’t have any patient
At the general canteen of the college, it was obvious that
business was not as usual due to low patronage. Food vendors
and other petty traders by the gate of the institution complained
bitterly to our correspondent.
A fruit seller said, “A lot of patients’ relatives and medical
students come and buy fruits and fresh bread from us. In fact, it
is hard to cope with the demand because UCH is a big hospital,
but now, I hardly sell one pineapple, so I cut it into bits. Others
rot away and I cannot take bread as much.
“So I now open for only two hours in a day. We hope they will
call off this strike soon.”
From Kwara State, patients, who had gone to some of the state-
owned hospitals went home disappointed on Monday.
One of the patients who identified herself as Mrs. Omotunde
Idowu, said she had to take her sick son back home as there
were no nurses to attend to them due to the ongoing strike.
Another patient, Mrs. Iyabo Yusuf, said it was sad that she was
facing such an “ugly situation” in the New Year.
Many public hospitals at state and local government levels
remain empty since members of JOHESU, who represent 70 per
cent of the medical workforce in hospitals, embarked on an
indefinite strike on October 16 to protest against the non-
implementation of collective bargain agreement and
Memorandum of Understanding between the union and the
The President, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Mr.
Felix Faniran, said the strike might linger due to the failure of the
Federal Government to heed their demands.
Faniran stated, “We have been overly patient, but longsuffering
has its limits. We have now arrived at a decision. This industrial
action is indefinite and it will not end until the authorities meet
“The minimum requirement for the strike to be called off is the
appointment of our members as Chief Medical Directors,
adjustment of CONHESS salary as done for the NMA and
immediate circularisation of retirement age of health care
workers from 60 to 65 years.
“We demand a stakeholder’s review of the Yayale Ahmed
Committee report submitted to Mr. President. Some of the
recommendations will only cause more disharmony in the
However, stakeholders are calling on the Federal Government to
put a stop to perennial strikes by doctors and health workers, to
prevent a collapse of the sector this year.