Igbobi Patients Suffer As Workers' Strike Continues

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Patients at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi (NOHI), Lagos have continued to suffer from total lack of care from the medical and health workers who have been on strike since March 29.

A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), who visited the hospital on Tuesday, saw that some patients in critical condition, including those with severe orthopaedic injuries, as well as spinal cord injuries, had been left to fend for themselves.

The junior workers union, which includes porters, cleaners and kitchen staff embarked on strike on March 29, while the senior workers union, including the nurses, joined on April 11.

The workers are protesting the non-implementation of the skipping policy on March 29, after a promotion exercise was carried out at the hospital.

The Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission had issued a directive in 2009 cancelling the policy of skipping steps nine to 11 in promotion exercises for Federal Government employees which many labour unions had negotiated for their members in the past.

NAN reports that since the nurses joined the strike, the management compulsorily discharged all patients on April 11, without giving them referrals to other health facilities for continuation of treatment, but not allowing them to leave the premises except all bills had been paid.

Some patients who had yet to offset their bills and some whose relations lived far away, remained at the hospital but were in a pathetic state.

NAN reports that the situation in the male wards at the hospital was particularly pathetic as many of the fractured bone injuries missed out on dressing and other routine treatment required for such wounds, emitted the odour of decaying flesh, which enveloped the entire wards.

One of the female patients in one of the female wards, Miss Labake Ayorinde, who had been undergoing treatment for a fracture in her leg, said that the patients had not been given hospital food since the strike started, even while they still paid their food bills.

“Our relatives now have to bring food for us from their homes as the kitchen staff and nurses, who usually served us food, are nowhere to be found,” she said.

Labake added that the environment was also very unkempt as all the cleaners were on strike and there was nobody to tidy up.

“What about the environment? We that are sick already are being made to inhale all sorts of things to add more diseases to our situations! It is not just done anywhere else,’’ she said.

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Explaining how she had been coping, Labake said that most often, her mother came around to do the cleaning of her room and washed her bed linen.

“She now fetches water to clean and wash my linen, which was not the case when the workers were not on strike, because the cleaners used to do all that.

“When there is no electricity, there is no junior staff to switch on the generator and I also need physiotherapy for my leg which I have not been able to get since the strike began,” she said.

A male patient, Mr. Tope Anjorin, said that the strike was to the detriment of the patients.

“Most of us have bone infected diseases which need regular dressing, to prevent further infections, but we have not had our wounds dressed for about a week now,” he said.

Anjorin said that even when patients came together and wrote to the NOHI management, appealing to them to provide palliative measures for patients, majority of whom had severe injuries, the management just ordered their discharge.

“We think that this is very unfair as the welfare of the patients should be their priority

“We, therefore, appeal to the relevant authorities to look into the matter so that innocent lives are not lost,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Wahab Yinusa, in a telephone interview with NAN, said that the hospital had no power to implement the skipping policy, except if it received a directive from the Federal Government to do so.

“The major problem is the skipping of steps for workers but a circular from the Federal Government has instructed federal health institutions to stop this policy and any hospital that flouts it would be sanctioned.

“The Federal Government is above the hospital management, but we will meet with the unions on their other demands,” he said.

Yinusa, however, disclosed that the hospital management had sent a report to the Federal Ministry of Health on the situation at the hospital.