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Health workers protest in Kwara over lack of PPE, threaten strike

Amid the fight against Coronavirus pandemic, nurses at the Kwara State General Hospital in Ilorin on Thursday protested the lack of allowance and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the facility, directing members to stop coming to work. 

The nurses alleged that they were being taken for granted and while addressing the members, the lead nurse warned that no HOD must go to work if the government does not attend to them. 

Speaking to this reporter on the condition of anonymity, a top member of the health workers said: “Working without PPE is dangerous. We can’t be endangering our lives while trying to save others. We see what our colleagues wear elsewhere. The government should provide enough PPE if they are serious about containing diseases in the state.”

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A Kwara-based civic group, Kwara Forum for Ethics and Good Governance, condemned the protest by the nurses and midwives, describing it as an exercise “in bad faith.” 

They noted that leading a protest 24 hours after demands were made is untidy.

“We saw the video like every other person and had some sympathy for the workers. But a deeper look into the agitations of the nurses and a few questions thrown at their leaders in the background expose fundamental flaws in their approach and action which seems an attempt to either embarrass their management or maybe the state government,” Usman Abdullah, executive secretary of the group, said in a statement late Thursday.

“First, we understand that the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, GHI Chapter, wrote a letter dated 08/04/2020 with reference No. 0011 in which they made four requests including provision of PPEs for all nurses working in the hospital; provision of call food for all nurses on duty; extension of designated pick up point for its members; and a weekly allowance for all nurses throughout the period of the pandemic.

“As good as these demands are and whatever their relationship with the management of the hospital, it is strange that the nurses will be throwing tantrums in the name of protest barely 24 hours after making some demands. That is too early to raise suspicion. We agree that the government should try to make health workers very comfortable. However, no government in the world prepares for this humanitarian crisis of COVID-19 and the worst anybody can do is to take advantage of the situation to hold governments to ransom.”

Reacting to the development, the parent body of the Association of Nurses and Midwives dissociated themselves from the demonstration.

“The attention of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Kwara State branch has been drawn to the news just gone viral of the purported nonchalant attitude of the State Govt to the plight of nurses working in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wish to state equivocally that this association dissociates itself from this falsehood while commending the Mallam Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq led Administration for the dogged commitment, efforts and huge financial resources that has gone into this fight against this global pandemic.

“We assure all members of the continued concern of the administration for the welfare and protection of our members which was explicitly expressed by His Excellency in his recent press briefing,” a statement by the chairman, Alhaji Sheu Aminu partly reads.

“Please be assured that all the requests tabled have received the desired attention. The members of this Association are as concerned as everyone in this fight and will not in any way allow any politically motivated agitation to dampen the morale of his Excellency in his concerted efforts to bring the fiery situation under control.

All members of the Association are hereby enjoined to continue to do their best and play their role in this fight. May I inform you that any officer found wanting will be dealt with appropriately according to the public service provisions. Please continue to stay safe while going about your lawful duties.”

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NDCD) confirmed two cases in Kwara on April 6. Consequently, the state government announced yesterday a total lockdown in all the local government as part of the measures to curtail community transmission. Markets are to be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.

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