Nigeria at risk of another Ebola outbreak, warns Health Minister

By The Citizen

The Federal Government yesterday sounded the alarm that the ongoing strike by health workers has made the country vulnerable to the killer Ebola Virus Disease.

The Minister of State and Supervising Minister of Health, Dr Khaliru Alhassan, stated this in Abuja while addressing journalists.

Health workers, under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, initially embarked on strike partially last month, but the leadership of the union ordered all members to join last week.

Alhassan said that through collective efforts of government, the health professionals and the citizenry, the Ebola virus was fought to a standstill.

The minister stressed that the world expected the country to sustain its Ebola-free status, but that the strike by the health workers had put the country at risk of a second outbreak of virus. Alhassan argued that government had played its part in the agreement reached with the union, but that the workers had refused to resume work.

According to him, many Nigerians would be coming home from abroad during the imminent Yuletide, and their absence at their duty posts could be dangerous.

But he said government had not relented in providing enough checks at the nation's borders, to prevent importation of the virus.

His words: 'JOHESU, we have been negotiating with them from day one. I have never refused any day to talk to them; we have been talking to them. And, we have made passionate appeal to them that if there is a way we can resolve the issue. If they are on strike, it is very difficult for the government, but, we still sit down and talk. We feel we will get result through continuous dialogue.

'We have made our point clear through the Chairman of the government negotiating team, Minister of Labour; this is the position of government as of now. We have, to the best of our ability, concluded all things that are supposed to be done by the Federal Ministry of Health. We are doing them, and we will continue to abide by our resolution.

'We are appealing to JOHESU members to come back. We are working, and we will continue to do that. But, for them to leave their place of work, it is puttingĀ a lot of stress on the system, especially our war against Ebola.

'We believe JOHESU members have important roles to play as members of the health team. So, keeping away from their duty posts is putting Nigeria at risk. I believe, as responsible Nigerians, regardless of our differences, we should put the interest of Nigeria first.

'I am still appealing JOHESU's leadership to have a rethink and come back to their duty posts because this is the national duty they must do to ensure they protect Nigerians.'