CONHESS: Health workers  protest in Abuja

CONHESS: Health workers  protest in Abuja

…Urge Buhari to approve, implement report

Few days before the end of the current administration, the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals, Wednesday stormed Abuja in protest, demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari approves and implements the Technical Committee Report on the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure, CONHESS.

The unions also called on the incoming National Assembly to only facilitate the appointment of seasoned administrators and managers of cognate experience as ministers in charge of the health sector.

The health unions said such step remains the only way to normalize and do away with what it referred to as the “perennial entropy that continue to engulf the health sector where productivity is at the lowest ebb/hub.”

Addressing the media at Unity Fountain, Abuja, venue of the protest rally, Vanguard reports that the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, said the Unions, explained that the protest was aimed at drawing the attention of the National Assembly to the “unending vicious cycle of tyranny vested against respective affiliate of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) in the health sector by the Physicians- dominated and oriented Federal Ministry of Health. “

Ogbonna further explained that the collective Bargaining Agreement between the Federal Government and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) established strongly that once there is an adjustment in any of the salary structure, the other structure should be adjusted commensurately.

He disclosed that the last three successively Physician Health Ministers in the last twelve (12) years that is; Prof. Cyril Chukwu (2011-2015), Prof. Isaac Adewole (2015-2019), and the present Minister Dr. Ehanire Osagie (2019-Date) have deliberately truncated the adjustment of CONHESS on four (4) occasions since January 2, 2014 (nine and a half years ago) when the first adjustment of CONMESS for Physicians took place and subsequently in 2017, 2018 and now May, 2023. 

According to him, the social injustice and discriminatory adjustment championed by the Federal Ministry of Health in favour of the Physicians and to the great disadvantage of other health workers led to a trade dispute declared by the Joint Health sector Unions (JOHESU) in September, 2021. 

He said:”This dispute was however apprehended by the Chief Conciliator of the Federation and Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Chris Ngige at a conciliatory meeting held on 7 September, 2021 at the Conference Room of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment”. 

“During the conciliatory meeting attended by the Minster of Health Dr. Ehanire Osagie and the then Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora with other top Federal Government Officials from Ministries and Inter-Ministerial Departments and Agencies with the National Leadership of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), the meeting resolved that, all matters in dispute be referred back for negotiation at the Federal Ministry of Health”. 

“Upon resumption of negotiation at the Federal Ministry of Health at a meeting held on 19” September, 2021, the FG and JOHESU team agreed to the setting up of a High Level Inter-Ministerial Committee to determine the justification for the adjustment of CONHESS, work out a detailed financial implication and make appropriate recommendations. 

“The Commiltee was chaired by the Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), and membership drawn from Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Budget Office, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and Joint Health Sector Unions (JOIIESU)”. 

“The Technical Committee Report had since been submitted to the Federal Ministry of Health for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council. ‘That, the Ministry has refused to do since over a year”. 

Speaking further, Ogbonna said the militating bane in the spread of benefit packages is domineering as influence of Physicians in the Ministry Departments and Agencies (MDAs); from the Federal Ministry of Health to agencies like National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and others where the Physician-CEOs have skewed priviledges as well as other benefit packages in the direction of their Physician brethren. 

“In one of the most bizarre development in contemporary times, the Physician-dominated Federal Ministry of Health negated the Consultant Cadre status of Pharmacists which has met all components of due process as far back as 2011when the National Council on Establishment (NCE) approved the status. In 2020 and 2021, both the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and Federal Ministry of Health conclusively issued circulars to back up the NCE approval”. 

He reiterated that the incumbent Health Minister, Dr. Ehanire Osagie sabotaged the implementation of this cadre as it has not taken root in the Federal Health Institutions (FHIs).

He said:”Even at the state level, Niger State Government has been implementing this cadre for Pharmacists since 2014, while other less endowed States like Osun and Edo States are already implementing it. 

“At the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, other Health Professionals recognised as rendering consultan- related jobs were abruptly terminated on the prompting of Federal Ministry of Health. 

“The Physicians-CEOs in the Federal Health Institutions (FHIs) continue to jeopardise the legitimate allowance of health workers in various centres. 

“These allowances include, amongst others; outstanding promotion, skipping, uniform, COVID-19 Inducement as well as withheld salaries in JUV, LUTH, FMC, Owerri and NOSIF, Azare.”

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