No point pretending to be oblivious of the dark clouds hovering around the Delta State Ministry of Health, the lingering battle and the consequences on the good people of the state because it is the grass that gets trampled when elephants fight.
With the turn of event in the state in recent time, particularly the imposition of Director of Nursing Services and issues on poor welfare, nurses are set to proceed on an indefinite strike and plotting to impeach their union leader over the matter.
The Nursing Union in Delta State suspended their five-day-old industrial action on December 8, 2020 over various issues concerning the demotion of principals of Nursing and Midwifery Schools in the State Ministry of Health by the Commissioner of Health without any established labour indictment and imposition of a Junior Nursing Officer as Director of Nursing Services.
Other issues include the non-implementation of nurses that were laterally transferred to Ministry of Health, non payment of minimum wage, uniform allowance and arrears as well as the COVID-19 lockdown allowances. Others issues include promotions of nurses, removal of rural allowances from nurses working in the 25 Local Government Areas’ Primary Healthcare Centres, Unemployment of Nurses and Recruitment of Volunteer Nurses in gross breach of labour and civil laws among others.
When they suspended the strike, little did the nurses know that the state government won’t keep to its side of the bargain let alone yield to the contentious imposition of Gloria Igumbor, an extremely far Junior Nursing Officer, as Director of Nursing Services as against the recommendations of the Head of Service on Seniority in Civil Service.
Presently, another crisis is brewing in the health sector as the nurses are set for total showdown with INDEFINITE Industrial Action to drive home their demands. The leadership of their Union at their last meeting concluded that the Nurses should proceed on strike Action as from February 10, but this was put on hold about 24 hours to the execution because of innocent patients who will bear the brunt. Unfortunately, this did not go down well with Nurses, thus leading to the thickening moves to get the Union leaders impeached.
Several stakeholders meeting were held during the week, including virtual gathering on February 7, 2021, wherein the State Chairman was mandated to ensure all Stakeholders are met to find a lasting solution to the identified problems, especially the lingering imposition of Director of Nursing Services, but all efforts met brick wall, especially on the appointment of a Grade Level 13 (Assistance Chief Nursing Officer), who was promoted to Grade level 14 (Chief Nursing Officer) less than six months ago, as Director of Nursing in a State that is saturated with at least 12 eminently qualified Directors and many others at the Local Government, HMB, FHI and Private Sector.
This act is in total breach of various sections and subsections of the Delta State Civil Service Rules, Unified Scheme of Service for Nurses, Nursing and Midwifery Council Act and all labour laws that spelt out modalities for appointment of Directors or Acting Directorates.
Interactions with some Nurses in the State further showed that the Chairman’s continued “trusting: that the Government will do something about it is no longer satisfactory as evidential moves are anxiously expected.
A committee was set up to monitor the transcending events hovering around the Seniority Matter in the State’s Department of Nursing, However, Igumbor, a Chief Nursing, who was previously titled: “Functional DNS,” is now parading herself as DIRECTOR of Nursing. These negations and audacity had been ascribed to the closeness to the Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa. Both of them are of the same tribe!
As part of nurses move to get accelerated result, the State Chairman has been asked to step aside as quickly as possible, while some members have been enjoined to meet with the National Leadership of the Union within the week to table the resolutions before them. If anybody can be imposingly appointed as DIRECTOR without recourse to the established Civil Rules, the purpose of PROMOTION in service, especially for career progression, has been defeated. Thus, allowing this aberration to stand will set a dangerous precedent and render the sacrifices made by the workers in the course of their service worthless.
Let me also use this medium to dispel rumours that their action is aimed at fighting the state Government. They are all part of the stakeholders in Delta State Government and as such cannot be coerced to tolerate injustice in any form. I appeal to the state Government to do the needful in the overall interest of patient safety and industrial harmony. The agitations of nurses in the State were all gearing towards the same thing: Justice for Peace to reign in the Health Sector as further shortchanging cannot be tolerated.
Why should the core responsibility of the Civil Service Commission of hiring, directing, appointing and transferring of personnel be relaxed in the Ministry of health? I am optimistic that if the Governor gets involved, issues will be resolved amicably as it is pointless denying the rights and privileges of one worker for the other.
I commend the State leadership of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives for the efforts in resolving the issues and the assurance that the raging issues of Nurses Unemployment, Imposition of DNS, Demotion of Nursing and Midwifery school Principals, dearth of Nurses in the State Hospitals and other welfare-related issues are being looked into by her leadership.
In conclusion, I appeal to the Government of Delta State and all interested groups, especially the Civil Society Organizations in Delta State and in Nigeria, to intervene and ensure justice to give room for peace and industrial harmony so that the elephants wouldn’t fight and the grass won’t be trampled.
. Nwanze, a public affairs analyst in Delta State, writes from Asaba.