Act Before Health Workers’ Demand Expires

MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS OF the National Health Workers Association of Liberia at the end of a week-long ‘go-slow action’ agreed to resume work yesterday 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. The health workers began a ‘go-slow action’ for better working condition and good wages, something which claimed the attention of stakeholders in the sector.

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 would 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 Representatives. 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.’

TO WORSEN MATTERS, according to Dr. Sibley, 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 began work yesterday.  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 Service Administrator, Mr. James Y. Juah,  described as “go-slow action”.

WE ARE IN the first place commending the Health Workers Association of Liberia for agreeing to return to work and cater to the most destitute sick citizens and residents of Liberia. Their action to return to work is commendable because the health of the citizens must be attended to since a healthy nation should produce prosperous and productive people. Their action to return to work is commendable in that their quest to uphold their professional integrity is still alive. However they also need to be cared for in terms of salaries and other benefits that come with their job or profession. People cannot spend time in acquiring education to serve humanity in an occupational area like health and medical practice and do not get the right compensation for their craft. After all, people get educated in certain sphere to live a better life and not to suffer after intensive effort to get educated.

IN THIS REGARD, we are calling on the relevant authority, and to be specific the Government of Liberia (GOL) to do all within its powers to begin addressing the concern of these health workers’ prior to the expiration of their 60 ultimatum. The GOL working through its requisite apparatus must now design strategy aimed at allocating resources that would lay this matter to rest once and for all. In actual term, the GOL must act quickly so as to end this ugly development of health workers staging a “go-slow’ action only because they are not been catered to properly.

IF THE NATION must produce sound, healthy and prepared people for the process of national healing, reconciliation, peace and nation building after years of devastation, the GOL must begin to pay attention to those in the health sector like in the case of all sectors, in a way that those workers will feel the touch of their government and benefit from taxes being paid. Again the GOL must act before the expiration of the health workers’ 60-day ultimatum because as a common saying goes “DELAY IS DANGEROUS.”