Nurses at the Federal Medical Centre, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, Ogun State, have raised the alarm over what they described as harsh working conditions, lamenting that many of them are overworked with some collapsing on duty due to workload.
The nurses under the aegis of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives on Wednesday, protested against the acute manpower shortage and an alleged exclusion from the 2023 promotion carried out in the institution.
The protest monitored by PUNCH Healthwise was carried out on the hospital’s premises.
The nurses urged the management of the hospital to address their promotion arrears, shortage of staff, and other rights.
The aggrieved workers were seen singing and carrying placards around the premises peacefully.
Some of the placards read: “Stop selective promotion”; “Nurses workload is enough for promotion”; “Nurses’ lives matter”; “Give us our promotion”; “Healthy workplace, healing spaces, nurses demand both”; “Improve nurses’ working environment”.
Recall that the National President of NANNM, Micheal Nnachi, lamented the loss of members to other countries due to poor wages and an indecent working environment in the country.
He revealed that over 75,000 NANNM members have since migrated abroad in the past five years for some reasons including lack of social protection, insurance, and inadequate compensation including other incentives.
During the protest, the NANNM Chairman, FMC Abeokuta chapter, Olufimilola Adekunle, said more than 200 nurses in the hospital have relocated abroad.
She added that less than 300 nurses are left in the institution to take care of hundreds of patients visiting daily.
Adekunle lamented that the many nurses are exhausted, and overworked due to acute manpower shortage in the hospital.
She insisted that the workload contributed to the death of two nurses in the institution.
She explained that more than five nurses have also collapsed during duties because of long working hours.
“It is tough to survive; we had to collapse three units together. We are going to merge some hospital wards, that is what we are planning to do immediately after this protest because we cannot bear it any longer.
“We want the government to come to our aid, we are working and we need to be paid for what we do. All our rights should be given to us.
“Our next action is to down tool. We are going to write them and stop working because, in the past months, we have seen our nurses collapsing.
“In the past two months, we lost two nurses. Our lives are important. The workload contributed to the deaths and our nurses collapsing on duties.”
She, however, said the protest was also to demand the papers of the promotional examination which the hospital claimed the nurses failed.
She further said, “We are here today because of the just-released promotional interview that was carried out by the FMC management about two months ago. The result was out and we were told that many of our nurses did not pass and that is not true. We are demanding their papers because, since the era of brain drain and Japa syndrome, it has been the few nurses on the ground who have been working tirelessly.
“We are tired, we are really tired. Before, nurses were known to be doing morning, afternoon, and evening shifts but because of the shortage, we collapsed our shifts into two for about three years.
“We have written to the management several times that we want remuneration for that at least to console ourselves that we are working. But nothing has been done. Nurses will resume by-shift from 4 pm and will leave here around 10 am the following day.
“The only thing we enjoy from the management is this promotion, we don’t benefit from them.
“Our uniform allowances for 2023 have not been paid. We have written several times and nothing has been done till now. We went out with a uniform allowance to be paid.
“We are being told that there is no vacancy, but that is not true. There is a vacancy because many of our nurses have traveled out and they need to be replaced.
“We are going to say no to all their excuses.”
Reacting to the protest, the Head of Clinical Services of the hospital, Dr Kunle Adediran, told our correspondent that the issue regarding the promotion was beyond the management because the decision was taken by the Federal Ministry of Health.
He, however, promised that the hospital would write to the Federal Government to review some of the decisions and also address other issues raised by the nurses.
He said, “The issue of the promotion is beyond the management. If the wishes of the management were to prevail, 100 percent of the nurses would have been promoted because we were aware of their resilience and dedication to duties, they are diligent and perseverant. We know what they have gone through all over the years.
“We are all employees of the Federal Government and all that we do has to be done in compliance with the directive of the government. It was not entirely up to the management.
“However, even now, the management will still see what can be done within the ambit of the law and the PSR to assuage the feelings of our nurses. Because if the nurses are not happy, they will not be able to render effective and efficient services to our teeming patients.”
On allowances, Adediran said, “We all know the economic situation of the country which has severely affected the income available to the government itself, the ministry, departments, and agencies. This has severely affected the cost of running the hospital. That is why there was a slight delay in the uniform allowance in 2023.
“Management has already made plans and very soon our nurses will start receiving alerts of the allowances. The details of this will be communicated to them. They can be rest assured that the money will be paid and it will be paid very soon.”
When asked how the management plans to tackle the working conditions of the nurses, Adediran admitted that many of the nurses have left the country.
He said the Federal Government had given the hospital go-ahead to employ more nurses and doctors.
He noted, “It is true that many of our nurses have left in the past few years and it is not only nurses, a lot of doctors have also left.
“A lot from other categories of workers; physiotherapy, and science laboratory, among others, have left. Management is not unmindful of this and management has taken several steps to make sure they are replaced.
“Very recently, management has been granted a waiver to employ nurses and doctors. This has taken a long for us to achieve this because of the financial and economic situation which made the government reluctant to increase its workforce. But we thank God we have been granted this waiver and very soon we will start employing.
“We know death is inevitable and it will be difficult to attribute it to one thing or the other. That is not to take away the fact that they are making sacrifices and the management is doing everything to make sure we employ more nurses to help reduce their burden.”