Staff of the Imo State Specialist Hospital Umuguma, near Owerri, Imo State who locked their gates against patients in protest over their mounting arrears of salaries have expressed disgust at the apparent deaf ears of the State Government to their plight.
“We are tired of agitating. We are appealing to government to release our salaries”, one of them who pleaded anonymity told Christian Voice in Owerri.
Top in their litany of grievances is their eight months salary which they are yet to receive.
The workers who said that they were no longer interested in declaring trade disputes with the government, however, demanded to be treated like other health workers in the state.
They traced their problem to the days the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha renamed the hospital from General Hospital to Imo Specialist Hospital and concessioned it to an Owerri-based private medical practitioner.
Irked by their plight, the Joint Health Sectors Union and the Joint Negotiating Councils ordered the closure of the hospital gates as no positive response has been received from government.
The government reacted by sending the Health Commissioner, Dr. Eward Ihejirika, to appeal in vain to the workers to re-open the gates.
“We cannot work on empty stomach”, the workers reportedly told the commissioner, refusing to return until the arrears were cleared and their other allowances paid.
“Our landlords are chasing us away from their houses because we cannot pay rents. Our children cannot pay their school fees; they are out of schools because of lack of money. Enough is enough, no pay no work”, the workers stated.
On the concession deal between government and the private medical practitioner, the workers asked to be sent back to their parent body, the Health Management Board (HMB) as they were not ready to renegotiate their welfare with any new body.
“We are already gazetted under Imo State Government”, they stated, adding that they would not allow any kind of transfer of service from government to another institution.
They, however, agreed to work on secondment, with their retirement benefits coming from government.
According to them, no matter where they were asked to belong, be it HMB, Ministry of Health, Teaching Hospital or being autonomous, what is of essence is that they should received their pay whenever it is due.
They, however, hinted that the concessioning arrangement was quashed by the State House of Assembly sometime but wondered why their plight still remained the same.