Health Workers Give 60 Days Ultimatum

Medical practitioners of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia at the end of a week-long ‘go-slow action’ have agreed to resume work today, with a 60-day ultimatum to have their plights addressed by the Liberian Government.  This latest decision was reached on Sunday, in Monrovia in a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by representatives from the Health Workers Association, the Liberia Medical Dental Council, the Ministry of Health, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, and Joint Committee on Health at the National Legislature.

In the Memorandum of Understanding, it was also agreed upon that there would be no witch-hunting on any of the health workers for the ‘go-slow action’ that was carried out and government’s failure to address their grievances will lead them to continue their strike action.

The Sunday’s meeting was attended by Representative Armah Jallah, head of the Joint Committee on Health, Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff and Rep. Johnson Doe Chea, Co-Chair persons from the Liberian Senate and House of Representative. Deputy Minister of Health for Administration, Matthew Flomo represented the Ministry, with the president of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia, Joseph F. Tamba also in attendance.

The County Executive Officer and acting Chief Medical Doctor at the Phebe Hospital in Bong County, Jefferson Sibley told the INQUIRER on Monday that due to the ‘go-slow action’ by the health workers, all of the patients, especially those who were not on critical list were discharged while those on critical list were forcibly taken away by their relatives two days after the ‘go-slow action.’

Dr. Sibley said the hospital had 100 patients and 300 staff, including three assigned medical doctors and two intern doctors. Interestingly, business owners shut down their businesses on Monday in Gbarnga, Bong County in solidarity with the health workers.

Since the matter has been laid to rest, business houses, as well as health practitioners throughout the country will return to work today.

During the ‘go-slow action’ daily activities at the J.J. Dossen referral Hospital in Harper, Maryland County came to a standstill as patients admitted and several others seeking medication were allegedly abandoned by the nurses and doctors assigned there due to what the Health Services Administrator, Mr. James Y. Juah People described as “go-slow action”.

Administrator Juah told a team of journalists over the weekend that the “go-slow action” was not a secret and it was the employees’ way of drawing the Government’s attention to their plight in demand of salary increment, allowances, housing facilities and the placement of health workers’ names on the payroll.

The go-slow action by the health workers affected the patients, especially those who were admitted because the health workers assigned at the Hospital refused to work, something that worsened their situation on a daily basis.

During a visit at the hospital, some of the patients, especially those admitted in the Out Patients Department (OPD), were seen loitering through the corridor, while others who had gone there to seek medication reluctantly walked away since no medical practitioner was available to cater to their health needs.

Administrator Juah said there was an ongoing discussion between authorities of the Liberia Health Workers Association, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoH) and other civil society groups in order to find an amicable solution in resolving the problem.

Though few doctors and nurses were also seen attending to some patients, it still didn’t help the situation because the hospital is also providing health care to dozens of other citizens from Grand Kru and River Gee Counties.

Residents within Maryland, Grand Gedeh and River Gee Counties have expressed concern that if nothing was done by the government to address the situation urgently, the health of those in these counties may be in danger since the hospital is the only one they have.

Some medical doctors assigned at the Redemption Hospital and James N. Davis Jr. Hospital in Montserrado County said they experienced an influx of patients while the nurses and doctors were on the ‘go-slow’.

The medical practitioners attributed the problem to the Ministry of Health’s failure to ensure that their plights were addressed; instead they observed that the Ministry pays its staff close to 200% more than other MOH operated entities.