By Joan Nwagwu
House of Representative Committee on Health says plans are on to give financial benefits to families of healthcare workers who died at the frontline of COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Yusuf Tanko-Sununu, Chairman of the Committee, disclosed this when the committee paid a courtesy visit to the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, (MHWUN), in Abuja in Friday.
Tanko-Sununu said that the National Assembly was still reviewing the manner of the compensation that should be made available to the affected families.
According to him, we are not unmindful of our health workers in the frontline who paid the ultimate price. This is why we are working out a plan to compensate their families.
“A committee has been set up. We will call for a public hearing where the strategy and method to be used in disbursing the compensations will be agreed on.
“The families of the deceased will be located and we must ensure that we reach out to them.”
He noted that the House of Representative under the leadership of the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, had set up a committee to interface and intervene in all pending issues concerning the payment and welfare of health workers.
Tanko-Sununu, however, urged the aggrieved workers who were threatening to down tools over government’s unfair treatment to consider the million of lives such an action could put at risk.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the health system and we are in a situation where the haves and have-nots are situated in the same place and so no one travels.
“We must, therefore, ensure that our health infrastructure is improved.
“We are here also to thank the health workers for not embarking on strike and for interfacing when the FCT chapter threatens to embark on strike.
“There is need for a health care system that average Nigerians can be proud of. Every person is important under this government.
“Without the services of lower cadre, the higher professional cannot carry out their job.
“We must manage our differences to ensure we understand ourself and move the country forward. We must come together to rescue this nation,” he said.
He, however, added that the committee’s primary responsibility was not only to ensure all demands of health workers in the country were met, but to also promote harmony in the sector.
“Our aim is to ensure there is no disharmony anymore in the health sector.
“We are reaching out to major stakeholders and negotiating their demands to ensure health workers continue with their work with no hitches or grievances,” he said.
Mr Josiah Biobelemoye, MHWUN National President, commended the lawmakers for the visit, while urging the legislative and executive arms of government to prioritise the needs and demands of healthcare workers.
Biobelemoye said that the delay in the payment of deferred and adjusted salaries of health workers was a ticking time bomb.
He, however, commended the efforts and concerns of the National Assembly in the welfare of healthcare workers including the steps being taken to back the consolidated revenue provision of one per cent by law.
Biobelemoye called for increased funding of the health sector and budgetary provision to fund the salary adjustments.
“We are doing so much and our people are showing so much understanding within this period because it’s COVID-19 period, but you can not expect people to be patient all through for ever.
“Government said there is no money but they are planning to pay private school teachers who are not even under the employment of government.
“We are in the fore front contending with the situation.
“How will you then explain to us that government does not have the money to pay our deferred salaries of April and May 2018, and the withheld salaries in FMC Owerri, JUTH, LUTH and others? How will you convince us?
“We are not against government trying to help out private schools, but if you are helping the private schools, why can’t you help us?
“Is it justifiable to keep the salaries of those who are in the war front?”
Biobelemoye appealed to the executive to quickly address the issues to avoid industrial action.