Armstrong Bakam, Bauchi
The Bauchi State Union of Volunteers and Temporary Health Workers has given the state government two weeks’ ultimatum to address their plights or their 2,897 members will be forced to go on an indefinite strike.
The health workers who are agitating for either permanent or temporary employment by the Bauchi State government warned that if the government doesn’t address their problems within this period, they will withdraw their voluntary services which they render in public health facilities across the 20 local government areas of the state.
The State Chairman of the Union, Yusuf Fada, who gave the ultimatum at a press conference held on Tuesday at the Cikin Fada Primary Health Care Center in Bauchi, lamented that their members head over 100 healthcare facilities across the state without monthly allowances and employment for over a decade.
According to him, although they, as volunteers, raise funds among themselves to purchase medical consumables and drugs to render free medical services to hard-to-reach areas of the state, yet, the government has not encouraged them by offering any of them employment in the health sector.
Fada, who was flanked by other executives of the union, said that the state government made five promises to the union since 2019 but none has been fulfilled to date.
He explained that they spoke to the Bauchi State governor before the election that brought him into office during his manifesto on the plights of their members who render services to vulnerable members of the society and healthcare facilities/hospitals across 20 LGAs of the state and pleaded with him to intervene when he wins.
“His reply was that he will casualize the services of volunteer health workers within 100 days in office when he becomes the governor of Bauchi state. After 365 days in office without fulfilling his promises, we sent many letters of reminder to the governor’s office, SSG’s office and Chief of Staff, but there was no response.
“Thereafter, we decided to conduct a peaceful protest in good faith, we were well organized for the planned peaceful protest on 2nd March 2020, but on 1st March 2020 we received a call from Chief Security Officer to the governor inviting us to have a dialogue with the government at the Government House, Bauchi, around 8:30 pm between our officials and the then commissioner of health, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro,” he said.
According to him, during the meeting, the CSO assured them that they will take their plight to the governor as soon as he comes back adding that at the end of the dialogue, Maigoro “promised that His Excellency will remove the embargo on employment and recruit health workers around June to July 2020 and give 70% to 80% consideration to our members for the job slots.” He also promised that the state government will engage 450 members of our union in the Malaria Consortium Programme.
“He pleaded with us to suspend our planned peaceful demonstration promising to submit names of our members across to the governor. We fulfilled our own side of the promise by suspending the planned peaceful demonstration but to our total dismay, none of the promises made during the meeting that was summoned by the officials of the government has been fulfilled.”
Fada said that with all these promises made by the government several times without any fulfilment, “we are becoming hopeless” especially considering that for over 10 years now, there has been no single official employment in the health sector, no replacement for over 10 years despite the exodus of health workers through retirement every month, increase in mortality rate recorded for many years.
Regrettably, government, politicians and NGOs have built over 150 new healthcare facilities approximately within these 10 years, without employing new hands.
“With these issues as facts have shown, we are giving two weeks notice to the Bauchi State Government to pay attention to our plight or we will be forced to withdraw our services across all health facilities in the state by embarking on an indefinite strike. We are going to withdraw the services of 2,897 members of our great union in public healthcare facilities across 20 LGAs of the state.
“We do not intend to embark on strike, however, we have no any other option than to go for it after the expiration of the two weeks notice beginning from tomorrow (Wednesday), if the Govt fails to take the needed action and do the needful,” he vowed.
The Commissioner of Health, Samaila Dahuwa, in a swift reaction, said that the state government was looking into their plight with a view of employing them, as the state government was not unmindful of what they are going through.
He said, “They are volunteers meaning, they chose to volunteer not that someone asked them to. However, they are making great contributions to the health sector in Bauchi State. Nobody would be happy to get to the point of lacking manpower to the extent that people will volunteer.
“Volunteers are allowed to work so that when the government wants to employ workers, they will have an edge and be considered first. We plead with them not to withdraw their services but they should continue since they have volunteered. They should also know that the government is working on their issues and they will soon be addressed.”