By Samuel Pascoal
Nurses in the Angolan capital, Luanda, are threatening to down tools unless authorities give them answers over unpaid salaries, job regrading, salary increases, payment of contractual subsidies and incentives that have been overdue since 2012.
Last Friday, nurses revealed their plans to go on an indefinite strike starting on June 11 to protest over the government’s alleged failure to resolve their grievances.
The Deputy Secretary-General of the Nurses Union of Luanda, António Kileba, told Lusa News Agency that the decision was unanimously approved during a meeting on May 31.
He said nurses have reaffirmed their readiness for a new paralysation of the public health sector in the capital due to silence from the authorities.
"It's been decided. In fact, it was a unanimous decision of the workers in the sector, so we approved to stop working as from June 11 and the strike will not have an end date.
It will be a general stoppage by all nurses in the health centres and posts as well as the hospitals managed by the Provincial Health Office,” Kileba said.
He said authorities in the Luanda Province have failed to honour promises to resolve the matter.
“In this way, there is no morality to work.
Hence, we have no other alternative if not to trigger this strike because we are tired of the promises that were not fulfilled.
The strike will be a fact and we have no date for its end,” said the unionist.
The nurses’ union stressed that it has been waiting since 2012 for answers to the 12-point demands sent to the provincial government, with the non-payment of salaries, job regrading and salary adjustments and payment of subsidies as the most pressing issues.
Dynamics of the nursing career, the lack of staff promotion, lack of qualified medical officials and administrators, lack of medical supplies, equipment and medication, and the ageing of certain staff in positions in the sector are other concerns that more than 7,000 nurses in Luanda have raised, according to Kileba.
He said lack of well-trained staff in the public hospitals has contributed to poor administration of the public health sector. Another concern is the chronic shortage of medication in hospitals, which he said is being deliberately kept in storerooms by unscrupulous health officials, who resell the medical products to the public via illegal channels.
"Enough with the moratoriums, formalities and warnings that we have been giving in recent months so that more attention and appreciation can be paid to the great number of nurses who suffer daily in maintaining our hospitals and health centres," he said.
In May 2017, over 6,000 nurses in Luanda suspended a general strike after receiving assurances from the government that it would respond to their grievances and demands by August that year.
The ministry of health has admitted that the government needs to appoint new health professionals across the country.
Health Minister Silvia Lutukuta is on record saying: “New admission of health professionals is needed to regulate many of the problems in the sector and elevate the doctor-patient ratio that currently stands at 1:4,000”.
The World Health Organisation recommends that the ideal doctor-patient ratio is 1: 1,000.