• Rejects profit-driven reform of health sector
• Decry neglect of the Vaccine Production Labs

by Baba Aye
johesu-leadersThe Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) recently condemned the planned restructuring of the health sector, involving privatisation of health facilities and services.

A petition to the Federal President was signed by leaders of the five unions which make up JOHESU (MHWUN, NANNM, NASU, NUAHP & SSAUTHRIAI). The petition said that the recommendations submitted to the Federal Government by a six-person team of “experts” should be condemned as only being in the interests of big business.

Speaking at a press conference in Lagos, in the first week of August, the health workers pointed out that the aim of the reforms being proposed for the health sector is only to make healthcare an avenue for the local bosses and multinational corporations to realise more profit. The ‘reforms’ would not benefit the overwhelming majority of the local people.

Access to quality health is supposed to be a human right. But how can this be possible if the cost of health care and medicines is beyond the reach of poor working people? The bosses, local and foreign alike, are not concerned about the health of the common people. They can afford the best of healthcare, including, if necessary, travelling out of the country.

The capitalists do everything possible to give a dog a bad name so as to hang it. They run down facilities for public services delivery and then claim that it is only the private sector that can properly deliver these services.

The privatisation of local electricity companies shows that the private sector does not have any magic wand to make things better. Meanwhile, we have to pay more with little or no improvement in service delivery. Since 1999, a massive N6,500billion has been ‘spent’ on the power sector. But there has been no increase in the amount of electricity provided to the public.

JOHESU has also called for reactivation of the Federal Vaccine Laboratories in Yaba. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Laboratories successfully produced small pox, yellow fever and rabies vaccines amongst others for countries across West Africa. But over the last few decades, they have been literally abandoned.

Vaccines are now purchased at exorbitant prices from abroad or provided by ‘donors’. The aim of the state is to make it seem that vaccine production can only be properly handled by business men and women, who are out to make huge profits.

Socialists insist that people must come before profit. Socialist Worker thus joins JOHESU in standing up against the privatisation of health services. But it is not enough to resist the planned privatisation. Already, a substantial amount of the jobs in healthcare facilities have been contracted out, with a dire effect on the health of patients. We demand job security for all health workers.

The management of healthcare delivery also has to be democratised. The decision-making processes at all levels in the sector have to be based on the representation of all cadres of staff, organised in the unions, as well as patients’ collectives. This will ensure that health care is really run for the benefit of the common people and not just to make profits for the few bosses.

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