Health minister reads riot act to unions, FMC Owerri gets interim committee

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has expressed displeasure over the attitude of members of the "house unions" of the federal medical centre, FMC Owerri, Imo state.

Adewole, who expressed his displeasure during the inauguration of a 5-man interim management committee which has been tasked to return normalcy in the institution, said the in-house unions have not acted well.

The minister who traced the genesis of the crisis at the hospital in April, said the medical director of the centre, Dr Angela Uwakwem, brought a proposal to the top management committee to introduce public private partnership in some revenue generating departments of the hospital, to entrench accountability in service delivery, and improve the revenue generating capacity of the hospital.

He the proposal that was agreed upon by the top managers except one, and the director was mandated to forward the proposal to the board for approval.

The minister blamed the crisis to "misunderstanding" between the parties involved.

Hear him, "even before the board meeting, rumours were said to have gone round that the MD was planning to privatise the hospital, with consequent retrenchment of workers and astronomical cost of service.

"The workers therefore became restive and made their stand known through a letter directed to the board chairman, a copy of which was forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Health, where the union threatened to embark on industrial action if the proposal was not jettisoned.

"Despite the passionate plea from the board, even to the extent of cancelling the proposal while the ministry was taking action on their letter, the unions embarked on strike without giving the mandatory 21days notice to the government.

"They held the board and management hostage and forcefully discharged patients.”

The minister observed that the restiveness was owing to the fact that majority of the hospital workers had lost confidence in Mrs Uwakwem as they went back to work when she was directed to go for her annual leave, and resumed their agitation when she came back.

According to the minister, "after series of meetings that lasted for hours with the management and unions which yielded no positive result, I had no option than to shut down the hospital and install an interim management committee charged with the responsibility of reorganizing and restoring services in the shortest possible time.”

The committee is headed by Professor Ndubisi Ekeh, Dr Bridget Akin Otiko, Mr Michael Okereke, Mr Ayo Olagunju and Mr Abdu Msheliza as members.




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