The leadership of the nursing profession in Nigeria has condemned what it described as unfair treatment of nurses in the country, noting that it is an unjust way to repay professionals whose dedication to the wellness of others has earned them the reputation of angels of mercy.
President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) Mr Abdrafiu Adeniji and Chairman, Lagos State NANNM, Mr Olurotimi Julius Awojide, who spoke to Pharmanews at different times particularly lamented the recent abduction of a nurse, Rita Aiwerela, in Edo State and the non-payment of the allowances of some of their members, called on the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to intervene as quickly as possible.
Mrs Aiwerela, a staff of University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), had been kidnapped in Benin, the Edo State capital, on 22 May 2016, was released a week later, after the family had negotiated with the abductors over the N10 million requested from them. It is not clear how much was eventually paid for her release.
Speaking on the abduction, Adeniji asserted that kidnapping nurses is a great crime against humanity, as nurses are naturally harmless and only depend on the invisible God for their protection.
“It is highly scary to single out a nurse for such an evil act,” he said. “Nurses are peace lovers and should be considered in the spirit of our selfless work and sacrifice to humanity,” he said.
Expressing the same sentiments, Comrade Awojide said it was utterly outrageous for anyone to be targeting nurses for attacks, noting that even in war situations, nurses are usually well-respected and given adequate protection.
In his words: “It is rather very unfortunate that nurses have become the target of kidnappers. I wondered, what they really want from us, our salaries are barely enough for our domestic demands. In view of the current situation, the government should ensure that the security situation in each state is fortified.”
Awojide further counseled nurses to take steps to safeguard themselves by not wearing uniforms outside of their hospital premises, not walking alone in solitary areas, and above all, being watchful and prayerful.
On the ongoing strike embarked upon by nurses at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Comrade Adeniji said it was an unfortunate occurrence that could have been prevented if the management of the hospital had not continued to ignore repeated complaints of unfavourable working conditions, even after several ultimatums.
Adeniji, who noted that the national leadership of NANNM was in full support of the strike, said there was no going back until the necessary issues were resolved.
According to him, “In this country, there is a reign of impunity and outright violation of public and civil service regulations. The government should not threaten the nurses with the CAP 432 that is being quoted in part. When the employer is found wanting and guilty of causing the condition that prompted the industrial action, it is not jungle justice that the employer will just adopt and implement unilaterally.”
The NANNM boss called on the federal government to intervene in the dispute, to prevent the strike from escalating to other health care institutions in the country.
On his part, Awojide explained that it was never the desire of nurses in LUTH to embark on strike at any point in time.
“We do not derive any satisfaction from the effects of strike actions on the public. As a responsible association, we do try our possible best to resolve grievances amicably. However, after exhausting all possible avenues and the powers-that- be are bent on depriving us of our legitimate rights, we do not have any other option than to embark on strike,” he stated.
Highlighting the issues that prompted the strike, the number one nurse in Lagos State said: “The working environment is not conducive both to the patients as well as the health workers, there are inadequate\obsolete equipment, irregular water supply for proper hand washing, lack of consumables, Inadequate manpower, no electricity, with nurses using torch light to attend to patients at night, lack of consumables etc.”
He continued, “Junior nurses employed over six years ago have not been promoted, whereas their counterparts employed at the same time in other Federal Health Institutions are already two grade levels above them. Nurses employed in June 2015 were not paid from June to December 2015, the excuse of the management is that the IPPS did not pick their names and that Federal Ministry of Health is the only one that can solve the nonpayment. The question is that are these nurses expected to go to Abuja to fix the problem themselves?”
He therefore pleaded for the federal government’s intervention in the situation, in order for calmness to return to the state.