Health centres in Bayelsa shut over workers strike

The ongoing strike by members of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, Bayelsa State Chapter, has effectively shut primary healthcare centres across the state.

The strike has hampered access to basic healthcare services like ante-natal for pregnant women and child immunisation at health centres across the eight local government areas of Bayelsa.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the union, which draws its membership mostly from primary health centres, ordered members to embark on an indefinite industrial action on Friday over the non-payment of their salary.

Barnabas Simon, the union chairperson, who gave an update on the strike on Saturday, said the union embarked on the strike as the last option following the expiration of earlier deadlines and fruitless meetings with government officials.

He said the salary owed the union members ranges from two to 15 months.

Mr Simon expressed displeasure over many unresolved issues affecting primary healthcare workers in the state, adding that after several talks, none of their demands had been met.

He said there were no signs the government intends to meet their demand.

“We have been holding meetings with state and local government officials and nothing concrete has been offered to the aggrieved workers, they have been asking us to suspend the strike and discussions are on.

“We made our position clear that we are open to dialogue and negotiations but what we really want is implementation of the prior discussions which we have had,” he said.

Ebiboere Michael, an expectant mother, told NAN she visited the Amarata Health Centre in Yenagoa but could not get attention for her ante-natal clinic due to the strike.

Newton Igwelle, the Bayelsa Commissioner for Health, said the government was making efforts to resolve the labour dispute.

“I hope you know that these health workers are not employees of the state government? They are staff of the local governments and they are having discussions to resolve the dispute,” said Mr Igwelle, a medical doctor.

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