Medical activities grounded at FMC Owerri as strike persists



The medical activities at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, capital of Imo state have remained grounded, for about two weeks, following industrial action embarked by medical and allied workers of the institution under the aegis of Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) and Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MAHWUH).

Precisely, the workers had urged the management of the medical centre to drop the idea of privatizing some departments to private hands under the Public Private Partnership (PPP), policy of out sourcing, since it would lead to massive job loss.

They also adduced their claim that at the moment, all the departments were generating huge revenue for the government to sustain it, maintaining that there was no need to embark on such venture.

The agitators also asked that their several months unpaid allowances be paid to them, also accusing the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Angela Uwakwem, of mismanaging the institution, alleging that she had not brought good leadership to the institution, and highhandedness, calling for her immediate resignation.

There had been three –day warning strike before the indefinite strike.

As at Tuesday, activities at the institution were shut down. The gates were closed as no person is allowed to enter the premises apparently to safeguard the premises. Patients have also been evacuated. Only the principal officers of the institution, according to a source, were allowed in.

Speaking on their grievances, the chairman of MAHWUH, who led the protesting workers over two weeks ago, also demanded that the payment of their two years arrears of promotion.

The placards of the protesters read: “’Pay us our money.’ ‘We are opposed to the PPP.’ ‘Who owns Zaza Hotel?’ ‘We are tired of intimidation in FMC, Owerri.’ ‘Buhari will hear this and come to our rescue.’ ‘Who bought our Drivers Unit among us?’”

Though the board of the hospital has jettisoned the PPP idea, assuring the health workers not to be worried as the policy would not be implemented, the CMD, had told journalists that it was amalgamation of private and public partnership which would yield results, assuring that it would not lead to job loss.

Uwakwe maintained that the practice had been carried out in some hospitals in the country. She noted that it was going to strengthen the weakness areas of the institution, regretting that there was confusion created by the people in issue of the PPP and outsourcing.

According to her, the cleaning and sanitation of the hospital improved when a decision to involve others took place. “It would not lead to job loss or cost them their job. There was no plan to sack anybody,” she insisted.

Uwakwe said there was need for change in the departments, infrastructure and improvement on job attitude of the workers.

Under her watch, she noted that a lot of achievements had been recorded, calling for understanding.

The medical practitioner stated that there were plans to make the institution a Teaching Hospital, in partnership with the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO).

The Federal Ministry of Health’s Permanent Secretary had addressed journalists last week, urging the health workers to resume duties, reminding them that there were many competent medical personnel looking for jobs in the country.

But, Dr. James Egbuchulam, in an email to The Guardian, wrote: “The FMC Owerri has been closed down for about four weeks owing to management-staff tussle. The Federal government is losing revenue and people are dying from lack of health care, even emergency and accident departments are shot down.

“The Union accused Management of trying to privatize the hospital and unilaterally engaging partnerships. The Management claims to have cancelled the partnerships, for normalcy to prevail.

“But the entire workforce now say the Medical Director must quit before work would resume. I think the Union should present its case to government and allow it time to investigate but should not direct government to remove its Manager who was duly appointed as a qualified professional, and who’s one of the few female CEOs in the Health sector. The workforce should prepare for Privatization, which might be the direction of the new Buhari Administration.

“However to avert this crisis of healthcare and to stop more people from dying, the CEO might opt to proceed on her annual vacation pending the appointment of a new Minister of Health while a panel objectively examines the issues from both parties.”

1 Comment
  • KaKa Kriss

    In my own humble opinion, the entire staff of FMC Owerri must have a genuine reason to have embarked on this unpleasant protest, therefore let Dr. Angela Uwakwem step down for another qualified Doctor to take the position of CMD since there are many qualified Doctors there. Thank you.