The Kaduna State Government today announced that it will keep its health facilities running and protect staff that are willing to work. It directed the Ministry of Health to ensure that health facilities run and provide services to the public, with the support of willing workers who must be offered every assistance and protection.
In its official response to the strike notice by health workers, the state government stated that it will not bend to blackmail. The government noted that it is instructive that the strike action was announced on the same day that many health workers were showing evidence on social media of the N450,000 they had received as April 2020 incentive.
Government rejects the strike threat and will regard persons who fail to show up at their assigned places of work as having forfeited their employment. Every health worker that is willing to work is required to sign the register at the Ministry of Health and the health institutions to which they are deployed.
The Ministry of Health has the mandate of the government to ensure that residents of Kaduna State are not deprived of public health services. Every effort will be made to ensure that health facilities keep functioning, staffed by willing workers who will be guaranteed free and safe access to health facilities. Those who are not willing to work are strongly warned against criminal action such as attempts to impede access to workplaces, harass willing workers or to sabotage facilities and equipment.
To declare strike action amidst the Covid-19 pandemic is naked blackmail, based on the mistaken assumption that the state government will reward irresponsible conduct by some health workers with surrender. The state government will not be misled into granting health workers a special status amongst public servants. The consequences of concessions made along such lines by previous governments have created a sense that some public servants are more precious than others.
Government will not be browbeaten by strike action into excluding health workers from the sacrifices being made by other public servants who are donating 25% of their salary to fund the provision of palliatives for low-income, poor and vulnerable persons that are impacted by the lockdown.
For the avoidance of doubt, the salary deductions introduced in April 2020 apply to everyone who works for KDSG, from the Governor to the most junior civil servant with a take-home pay of more than N50,000 monthly. It does not favour or discriminate against any professional group in the public service. This comprehensive show of solidarity applies to everyone employed by the government, and therefore does not exclude health workers.
However, health workers are being paid additional amounts as part of an Occupational Safety Initiative as follows:
- High risk staff are receiving a compensation of N15,000 per day. This refers to all cadres of personnel who are in close contact with Covid-19 patients;.
- Medium risk staff are receiving N10,000 per day. These are officers involved in taking samples, transferring patients to treatment centres, tracing contacts etc.;
- Low risk staff are receiving N5,000 per day.
These classifications were done by the Emergency Operations Committee on which health professionals, including the NMA, are amply represented.
The government is also paying a monthly incentive of 10% of net pay to each and every health worker in its hospitals and primary health centres. In addition, the Kaduna State Government has paid premiums for an enhanced insurance package for health workers that raises the death and disability benefits to N5m and N2.5m respectively. The insurance package also includes payment of N100,000 per day for 10 days to health workers who get infected with Covid-19.
The state government regards the other demands made as mere smokescreens to cover the first one. Asking the state government to treat the over 11,000 persons working in the health sector as frontline staff and pay them as such is not a serious request. There is a global shortage of PPEs, but amidst these supply-side difficulties the state government consistently tries to keep its secondary health facilities supplied.
Expanding health sector resilience and capacity to improve access to health services is a cardinal goal of this government. In pursuit of this objective, the government has recruited more health workers, improved health facilities and implemented initiatives of social inclusion like the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme and the supply-chain transformation project of the Kaduna State Health Supplies Management Agency (KASHMA).
The state government pays tribute to the hard work and sacrifice of many health workers who have demonstrated professionalism and commitment in helping to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. These efforts do not deserve to be besmirched by blackmail.