By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
The Federal Government said Wednesday that it did not enter into any agreement with the striking heath workers under the auspices of Joint health Sector Union (JOHESU) as claimed by the body.
Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac adewole disclosed this Wednesday while briefing State House Correspondents on the outcome of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The health workers embarked on an indefinite strike last week alleging that government had failed to honour an agreement reached on improved condition of service and welfare for the workers.
But the Minister said though government was working round the clock to meet the workers demands and get them back to work, there was really no agreement in the first place.
He said: “Strike in health sector; government has actually constituted a high level body to look into all aspects of demands including the financial implications and also to plan for the management of consequences of addressing those demands.
“That high level body met last week Tuesday, met again on Thursday, met on Friday, met on Sunday, yesterday and will also be meeting tonight. So we are really at work with respect to this we have done quiet a lot of computation, we have met with finance, we have met with budget and national planning. We are looking into all issues relating to this strike.
“But let me also put it on record that when we came on board, JOHESU approached us that they havd an agreement with government but we discovered that they was really no agreement with government.
“What they were able to provide were minutes of meetings held previously and we told them that no responsible government will implement minutes of previous meetings and of the fifteen points demands, we have met 14 of them over the one and half years. The only one left is currently meeting on.”
Prof. Adewole also disclosed that government was set to explore the alternative medical practice in efforts to find cure for malaria.
He said, to that extent, approval had been given for the establishment of a department of traditional medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health.
He also stated that approval had been give for the production and marketing of Niprisan, an anti sickle drug, for use in the country.
“The approval of Naprisan is coming at the eve of an approval granted by government for us to establish a department of traditional medicine in the Federal Ministry of Health.
“This will be the first time that this will happen and that department will really provide us the leeway to research into many of our traditional products and the first mandate of this department will be to look into cure for malaria in our forest,” Prof. Adewole said.
On the anti sickle cell drug, he said: “At today’s Federal Executive Council meeting, Government approved the licencing agreement between the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NAPRED and May and Baker Plc. This is in respect of scaling up commercialisation and marketing of Niprisan, a very potent anti sicken drug for use in Nigeria.
“As you might be aware, sickle cell disease is a common problem particularly among blacks in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America and it is estimated that about 25 per cent of Nigerians carry the sickle cell gene and over two million people have sickle cell anemia, that is having the two genes combined.
“And for many of them, when they are under stress, take ill, what happens is invariably they develop severe bone crisis, they develop infection and some of them will die from this.
“This drug was first used in Oyo State over 20 years ago and NAPRED conducted clinical trials to ensure that we are able to document that it is safe, it is efficacious and drug was licenced at an international organisation which went into bankruptcy.
“What we have done is to reactivate the product and it will now be marketed in Nigeria through this agreement and we believe that the marketing and production in Nigeria will bring a lot of comfort to millions of Nigerians who are infected with sickle cell gene.”
The minister also said approval was given by council for the establishment of trauma centre at the federal medical centre Owerri to cater for accident victims on Oweri-Port Harcourt road.
“Again council also approved the construction of a Trauma Centre at Federal Medical Centre Owerri at the cost of N840,817 million and this must be completed within 48 weeks.
“We expect that it will serve as a first class centre of care for accident and trauma cases along Port Harcourt, Owerri, Enugu axis and will really change the dynamics of care in these areas,’ he submitted.