Patients at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Enugu and their relatives have appealed for urgent resolution of the issues leading to the indefinite strike embarked on by the Joint Health Sector Union at the hospital.
This is to save some of them who are recuperating from degenerating into worse situation as medical services have collapsed at the hospital since the over two weeks old industrial action, following lingering rift between workers and management of the health facility.
The workers have been in running battle with the Chief Medical Director of the hospital over alleged financial irregularities, non-payment of some months of salaries and allowances, among other issues.
Some of the recuperating patients in the hospital are worried that the strike is taking heavy toll on them.
One of them, Mr. Emmanuel Nsude, who has been due for discharge, says they have been abandoned to their fate in an excruciating condition.
“No nurse, no doctors; even doctors who come around, don’t nobody to assist them in the wards; put yourself in my shoes, I am due to go home in the past two days but there is no one to discharge me.
“I have confronted the Medical Director and he said they will hold a meeting to resolve the issues but up till now, nothing has changed.”
Some patients’ relatives also lament that the situation has imposed additional financial burden on them as medical and other services they have paid for are not rendered since the strike began.
In an interview on the condition of anonymity, one of them says she constantly leaves her day to day activity in order to bring food and water for his sick brother as well as purchase drugs for him, in spite of the fact that they paid for all those things in advance.
“Me, I am not just happy because not giving them the proper medication might make them to go back or being stagnant”.
“There is no food, no water, electricity was just restored, I came here bringing food for my brother which is not supposed to be so; the government should look into this issue.”
In an interview, the Chairman Medical and Health Workers Union in the hospital, Comrade Matthew Eze, accuses the management of the hospital of insensitivity and toying with their legitimate entitlements, despite all entreaties.
Comrade Eze claims that there has been discrepancy in payment of salaries and allowances in the hospital, as some are paid while others are owed or their payments slashed, a situation that doesn’t go down well with them.
“Some of our salaries are withheld for many months, like 11 months, 15 months, and 19 months and we have been asking for this for many years now, especially the recent shortfall in salaries since February 2017 till December.
“Others are promotion arrears from 2013 up till date, teaching allowance and relativity allowance for some affected workers and we demand for the management to enroll our staff to Integrated Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS) to enable us avert all these problems because when our salaries are not coming to our management before being paid at least all these will be handled.”
The workers are also worried that the Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr. Jojo Onwukwe, has continued to stay in office despite attaining 60 years mandatory retirement age since October 3, 2014, an issue that the union has been challenging.
Comrade Eze says the workers want the Federal Government to intervene in the alleged gross financial recklessness and abuse of office by the Chief Medical Director and some of his agents to save the hospital from perennial industrial disharmony and total collapse.
“The saga going here since many years now is like are we not in Nigeria again? The Federal Ministry of Health should be scrutinized and others would be placed accordingly, probably reshuffle the seat of management at this hospital because a lot of incompetency is being notice here because these things are not happening in other hospitals.”
Mean while, the hospital’s School of Post Basic Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing has been closed down and its accreditation withdrawn by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria following the hospital’s failure to pay nine hundred thousand naira accreditation renewal fees from 2014 to 2018.
The situation is worrisome as the school is the only psychiatric training institution in the entire south east zone.
Efforts by Radio Nigeria to get the reaction of Dr. Onwukwe on the allegations against him and his management team were not successful as he neither picked calls nor responded to text messages put across to him.