The organised labour, Thursday, renewed its opposition to the proposal by the Federal Government to concession the 22 Nigerian federal teaching hospitals.
Labour told the government that health remains the foundation of development around the world and should not be for profit-making venture.
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, spoke at the 2019 Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Nurses Week/Scientific workshop in Abuja, said if the government was allowed to concession the teaching hospitals, it could lead to exorbitant cost of medical treatment beyond the capacity of majority of Nigerians.
Wabba, at the workshop organized by the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, FCT, Council, said what the government should do was to invite the private sector to invest, establish new hospitals and not to take over existing public hospitals.
He faulted the recent recommendations by the Infrastructure Concession, Regulatory Commission, ICRC, that the 22 teaching hospitals in country be concessioned, noting that the previous attempt to privatise the National Truama Centre in Gwagwalada, Abuja, was thwarted by the health workers union.
Wabba said: “For us to attain universal health coverage, certainly nurses who are the backbone of the preventive and curative medical services must be given the place in policy development.
“I am very happy that this year’s FCT Nurses week is taking place at this auspicious time when we are being challenged by a lot of policies that, by my estimation, and with our experience, having travelled round the world, may not actually deliver quality health services. In fact, it will alienate more and more people.
“One of such policies is the recent decision by the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission, ICRC, that it has granted the Federal Ministry of Health the nod to concession 22 tertiary health institutions. This is unacceptable.”
The NLC president said at the inception of the present administration, there were proposals for privatization of healthcare but noted that President Muhammadu Buhari openly stated that he was against the privatization of healthcare in the country.
“But you can see that whereas they cannot pass through the door as the door is locked, they are coming through the backdoor, that is unacceptable,” he said.
Wabba explained that teaching hospital plays three major roles, including teaching, research and provision of tertiary health services.
“If you privatise or concession the tertiary health institutions, what do you hope to achieve? Because the two important components of research and teaching will certainly suffer.”
He said making healthcare for profit generation in a country such as Nigeria, where the inequality gap was so wide between the rich and the poor, would negatively affect affect many poor citizens that would not be able to access it.
He said: “Private hospitals should be for the rich, while public hospitals should left for us the majority who form about 80 percent of Nigerians,” he said.
Wabba reminded those pushing for the concession of health institutions that the primary duty of government was security and welfare of the people, adding that no government could afford to ignore the provision of good and affordable healthcare for its people.
In a welcome address, Comrade Deborah Yusufu, the FCT Chairman of Nurses Association, lamented the poor state of funding and facilities in most public hospitals in the capital city.
She pleaded with authorities to urgently release funds and clear the arrears of salaries and allowance owed health workers.
In a goodwill message, Biobelemoye Josiah, president of MHWUN, said if healthcare services were going to remain affordable for the poor, government must retain its stake in public-owned hospitals and not privatise them.
Josiah described as fraudulent, attempt by some persons to railroad the federal government into accepting to concession teaching hospitals under the guise that it improves better health service.
He said members of the unions in the health sector would begin consultations to forge a common front to oppose the concession plan.
“They have come again with the same sing-song that it is only when they privatise that their managerial skill will better the system. Sincerely speaking, they want to cover-up the over 35 years of mess in the health sector,” he said.