Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate Executive
Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate

Era of Strike Actions in Health Sector over – Pate

The Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, has stated that the spate of strike actions in the health sector has caused enough damage to the wellbeing of Nigerians and has to come to an end.

The Minister said he and other government officials have been holding series of meetings with the relevant labour unions in order to put an end to strike actions in the sector.

Fielding questions from journalists after a press conference in Abuja on Saturday’s evening, the Minister said the federal government was on the verge of restoring industrial harmony in the sector by making peace with the unions who have either gone on strike recently or threatened to do so.

The press conference was organised by the Ministry to update the public on the outcome of the three-day Ministerial Briefing Session that took place earlier in the week.

“The issue of strike is a very important one. We see strikes, ultimatums and a lot of rancour which have led to the erosion of trust between various actors in the public space. This has occurred over many years and over several administrations and we are inheriting it.

“Due to its importance, we got right to into it and have met at least four of the professional associations and all the meetings have been very constructive. Whether it is the consultants’ council, JOHESU or midwifery council, all the ones we have met acknowledged that we need to put this rancour behind us and we need to rebuild trust among various actors.

“We have started on some outstanding issues and some have indeed been resolved especially from the meeting we had on September 6 which was about salaries and wages. We got the Salaries and Wages Commission and other necessary agencies involved,” he said.

The Minister noted that the 400,000 health workers in the country are doing their best in difficult circumstances, adding that government must look at all the issues and find win-win solutions for all stakeholders.

On the general plan for the country’s health sector, the Minister said: “First is to improve the quality of governance in health, how we lead the ministry, how agencies are led, the leadership of hospitals and we shall appraise the leadership of our hospitals and minimise political interference because health is too important to be left in the realm of politics just by itself. We will also strengthen the regulatory bodies of agencies like NAFDAC and other health regulatory entities to get better quality for Nigerians.

Read Also: We’ll End Medical Tourism, Harness Economic Value Chain in Health Sector – Pate

“We will also work with states at sub-national levels because health could be a unifying factor or basis for all Nigerians. We can use the governance of health to improve the cohesion of this country because it affects everyone. There is the National Health Act which has not been implemented. So, implementing it will be key and also the Basic Healthcare Provision that puts primary healthcare at the foundation of healthcare system. Improving accountability and visible answerability will also be required to renew Nigeria’s health sector.

“The second will be to improve population health outcomes. Diphtheria, measles, maternal health and others are preventable situations but people die from them. We will make maternal deaths visible, so, Nigerians will know where and why these deaths are happening and how to tackle them. Non-communicable diseases are on the increase and we will begin to deal with them from the primary healthcare level.

“We will look at how to improve facilities and infrastructure for our hospitals to function better so that Nigerians will have confidence and not have to travel abroad for medical care. We have asked the permanent secretary to give us an inventory of the procedures available in this country and how many are being done so Nigerians can be aware of the amazing work our surgeons are doing because some of them get called abroad to perform same procedures. We need to make them visible and be proud of them. All this will improve population health outcomes. We will also work with others at the state and private sector levels towards improving the work force that we are losing.

“The third bucket is the area of medical value chain and industrialisation. We have not attended to this. 70 percent of our pharmaceuticals are imported from countries that are just like us. We don’t produce our vaccines, almost 90 percent is imported, medical equipment are imported yet we have unemployed youths.

“Unlocking the healthcare value chain is so vital so. We will do that and increase the contribution of healthcare to Nigeria’s GDP and increase the number of new jobs that can be created in the Nigerian economy. The health sector can be a contributor to national economic development too. This is not traditionally what the health sector has done but the President in his vision to transform this country has mandated us to pursue that.

“The fourth one is to ensure health security. So that when outbreaks, happen, we will be in a strong position to respond sooner, before they get out of hand. We have done that in past, we did that with Ebola and Polio.”

The Minister noted that the task would not come easy, adding that he and his colleagues in the Ministry would be relying on the support of stakeholders especially the media to succeed.