Lagos nurses walk out on commissioners, others

The efforts of the Lagos State Government to avert the three-day warning strike declared by the nurses in the state proved abortive on Saturday as the angry workers walked out of the meeting called by the government towards addressing their concerns.

The nurses, under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), had on Friday at a congress held at their secretariat at Agidingbi area of Ikeja, declared the three-day warning strike to begin on Monday, January 10, and end on Wednesday, January 12.

Their demands include resolution of what they termed “acute shortage of nurses and midwives, retention incentives to arrest the turnover rate, proper consolidation of CONHESS salary structure and improved working conditions.”

But a meeting at the Marina home of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Saturday which was attended by some cabinet members in the state including the health commissioner and his counterpart at the ministry of establishments, Akin Abayomi and Ajibola Ponnle respectively; permanent secretary at the ministry of health and his counterpart at the health service commission, Olusegun Ogboye and Benjamin Eniayewu respectively; chief medical director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Adetokunbo Fabanwo, among others, failed to hold.

The nurses, who were led into the meeting by the association’s chairman, Olurotimi Awojide, and the secretary, Toba Odumosu, disagreed with the composition of the government’s representatives, insisting that they were only ready to meet with the governor.

According to reliable sources, who did not want to be mentioned for fear of sanctions, the union officers said they had held several meetings with the same officials including the head of service in the state, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, without a logical conclusion and that they were unsure if their matters were being raised before the governor.

They said it would only be appropriate to raise the matter directly with the governor, saying only a commitment made by the governor would be taken to their members for deliberation.

NANNM secretary speaks

Meanwhile, the union’s secretary, Mr Odumosu, in a terse response to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry on Sunday, said it was true that the union refused to meet with the government officials for fear of “repetitions.”

He said: “Yes, we had to walk out of the meeting because the invitation we received was to meet the governor and not representatives. We had met those same officials several times in the past without resolution. So it is important that we hear from the horse’s mouth.”

He said though they met the governor on their way out of the venue, he apologised for not making himself available for the meeting.

“The governor apologised and he already scheduled another meeting with us for today (Sunday) by 5p.m. So we are patiently waiting for the outcome of the meeting,” Mr Odumosu said.

Govt confirms development

The chief press secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Gboyega Akosile, on Sunday, confirmed that he was aware that the meeting could not hold.

Mr Akosile, however, could neither confirm nor deny that another meeting was already scheduled with the union. He said he would confirm and revert to our reporter.

However, as of the time of filing this report, Mr Akosile had yet to revert on the matter.

Nurses’ demands

According to the association, the exodus of its members abroad for greener pastures is leaving untold pressure on those left in the system, saying the high turnover of workforce in the state is already becoming unbearable to the existing members.

Breaking down the statistics, the union wrote: “The increased foreign labour migration of nurses is no longer news. Understandably this has led to an acute shortage in the staffing of health facilities. According to our records, more than 496 nurses left the service of the Lagos State Health Service Commission alone between 2019 to 2021 and with less than 15 per cent due to statutory retirement. For context, the commission has only about 2,350 nurses. Over 200 nurses left the service of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital within the same period. Over 80 left the primary healthcare board within the last two years which has only about 700 nurses and midwives.

“It is clear that nurses do not find job satisfaction or fulfillment here. Nurses are quitting within weeks of taking appointments. And this mass exodus continues to further overburden and overstress the nurses still within the service. The government has a replacement-on-exit policy in place which has been rendered ineffective by the inability to easily find replacements. Nurses are critical assets. Out of the 500 vacancies approved for recruitment by the governor for the Health Service Commission recently, less than 300 applied. This is in a country with a 33.2 per cent unemployment rate. It is certain far much less would actually take the job. LASUTH experienced the same fate in its own recruitment effort and it would be the same for the Primary Healthcare Board when it starts its recruitment.

“The inherent danger is that while the government is finding it difficult to fill entry-level positions, more senior nurses are also leaving the service. A replacement-on-exit policy does not cater to the deficiency of experienced hands that result from this mass exodus. The effect on the quality of care can easily be inferred.”

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