Nigeria’s Crumbling Healthcare System Pleads For Help

In the midst of more than 57,000 COVID-19 cases, the Nigerian government has failed to fulfil the demands of healthcare workers as the The Joint Health Service Unions (JOHESU)-led strike is called off after a week. 

The Joint Health Service Unions (JOHESU), representing nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals in state-run hospitals, orchestrated the strike in demand for more protective equipment, funding towards infrastructure, hazard pay and more. 

The strike commenced on 14 September and healthcare workers returned to work on 21 September: no statement has been made to explain why the strike was called off. A participant of the strike told Al-Jazeera the provisions of protective equipment are “grossly inadequate” under the quick increase of daily cases. 

According to Zambia News, JOHESU leaders will decide on their “next line of action” while urging the government to meet the needs of the health sector. 

Chris Ngige, Labor Minister of Nigeria, criticized the timing of the strike as  “unnecessary and even illegal.” 

“I think that the government has been unserious and resident doctors have been patient enough and we’ve given them enough time to come up with a solution,”  stated Selekeowei Kpuduwei, a leader of the National Association of Resident Doctors which led an earlier strike in June 2020. 

In this current time of Coronavirus, the strike highlights the frustration of healthcare workers at the lack of basic safety equipment that is essential to those devoting their skills to treat those infected with the virus. The current healthcare crisis shines a spotlight on the many health care deficits and the importance of addressing them. 

According to Nairmetrics, JOHESU stated that it “exhausted all alternative measures” before beginning the strike. 

This mid-September strike is the second of 2020 demanding improvements to the healthcare sector. The consistent efforts from professionals to bring attention to the gaping holes  in the healthcare system reveals the dire need for improvement in many areas and an unsafe working environment. 

Nigeria is home to 200 million people, making strikes in the healthcare sector common as it often fails to meet the needs of the country. 

An unsuccessful attempt at compromise between JOHESU and the government prompted the union’s strike. Before officiating it, JOHESU warned the public of a potential strike if their needs were not met within 14 days. 

A reduction in health workers could severely hurt the national interest and its defence against the pandemic. It is therefore crucial that the government address the needs of its health sector before it totally crumbles under the weight of a world pandemic.

In order for the healthcare system to run facilities efficiently, demands must not fall on the deaf ears of the government but must be met swiftly and in its entirety. Infrastructure, provisions and management are key in battling a global crisis such as the Coronavirus pandemic.