27th November, 2018
Health workers of Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Aba, on Tuesday, resumed their indefinite strike, locking the entrance to the hospital and depriving patients and other workers access to the complex.
The striking workers, who are demanding 10 months’ salary arrears owed them by the state government, said they would not also allow the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Chucks Kamalu’s car to enter.
The workers, dressed in black clothes, had placards bearing inscriptions like: “ABSUTH workers are hungry. But why”? “ABSUTH workers can no longer pay school fees, bills, feed!’’
Others bore: “New employees have not been paid from May 2018 till date”, “Abia State Government has turned ABSUTH workers to beggars”, “How long shall we continue to cry for our salaries?’’.
Mr Sylvanus Inyama, the Branch Chairman, Medical and Health Workers Union, ABSUTH Chapter, said they had been going into and out of strike because they always believed the government would keep to its promises.
He said that they were resuming the strike they suspended on June 8, again because the state government kept failing in its promises to pay them.
“By 6th June 2018 when the Joint Union went on strike, we were on strike.
“On the 8th of June 2018, the state government had intervened in the strike action and we came up with a resolution and a Memorandum of Understanding.
“We entered an agreement with the government and they promised to be offsetting our salary arrears with two months payments, every month from June 2018.
“It is also written in the document that if the government failed to pay as promised the Union will not hesitate to resume the suspended strike.
“But since then government had not been able to meet up with the promise they made. They have not paid the two months for once as promised till date.
“What they now do is when we mount pressure, they will just throw in one-month arrears, just like the last payment they made on Oct. 4, for January 2018 salary,” the union leader said.
Inyama said that they were protesting to remind the government that it had breached its agreement and that the workers were resuming the suspended strike.
He said that the protest at the gate of the institution would continue until next week when the hospital would close down completely with all patients in the wards sent home.
Mr Enyinnaya Ogbonna, a Health Workers Union member, while addressing the workers at the gate, called on Kamalu to appeal to the governor to pay them; stressing that their members are dying from hunger.
“We cannot continue to live this way. This gate is permanently locked until the government pays our salaries. We do not want one-month payment again,” he said.
Ms Onyinyechi Akwara, a Medical Laboratory student, also said that it would be hard for them to take over tomorrow’s healthcare services from the current workers without proper training.
She said that the strike was affecting their studies adversely and begged the government to urgently pay the workers to restore normalcy in the institution.
Mrs Blessing Ugochukwu, a new nursing mother who had triplets, said that the strike would affect the level of care given her and her babies by the doctors and nurses and even their discharge.
She said that she was not happy about the 10 months salary owed the workers and pleaded with the government to pay them to help her babies get proper care, be healthy and safe.
The nursing mother said she had not left the hospital because they have not been able to pay all that was required of her by the hospital.
She further said that the strike will have an adverse effect on her and her babies if they were abandoned in the hospital.