Strike Action Still Biting

By:Lewis Verdier& Edwin G. Wandah

The J.J. Dossen Hospital, the only referral Hospital that has been providing health care to ailing citizens in Maryland County has reportedly been turned into a ‘ghost town’ as all of the medical practitioners have abandoned their duties.

Unfortunately, some of the patients who were not aware of the health workers’ strike action were seen in tears because there was no one available to provide medical attention to any patient at that time.

Early yesterday morning, those patients, especially those who carried children to the hospital, were seen leaving the hospital with their faces frowned and complained that if nothing is urgently done by the Government of Liberia to address their health workers’ plight, many people might die.

A 36-year-old woman, Victoria Weah, who took her two kids to the hospital explained to this Paper in tears that she arrived at the hospital as early as 8:00 a.m. with the hope of getting treatment for her children but was disappointed when she observed that there were no health workers around to attend to them.

Other patients who waited with the hope that the health workers would pass by, were wearied of waiting and left the hospital disappointed and described the area as a ‘death trap’.

Two nurses (names withheld) said they were trained to save lives but the manner in which they have been treated by the government has compelled them to neglect their duties.

A male health worker complained that he has not received his salary for two months and he has incurred debts that have caused him serious embarrassments due to his failure to settle his debts.

Meanwhile, twenty two employees of the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare have been dismissed with immediate effect.

The Minister of Health, Walter Dr. Gwenigale said, the 22 people were dismissed for several reasons, including, gross insubordination, obstruction of government functions by public servants, purposely promoting, facilitating and inciting employees to strike, among others.

Those dismissed were Joseph Tamba, George Poe Williams, Dickson D. Korfeh, Barsee Y. Zogbaye, Catherine N. Jackson, Singbeh P. Davis, Deemi T. Dearrue, David T. Dolo, Doris Konneh and Aaron K. Sonah.

Others were Richard K. V. Mulbah, Martha Morris, Samuel Zayzay, Mercy G. Harvey, KerkulahTokpah, Enid Dalleh, Washington Kesselle, Reuben Sendolo, HalmiltonNagbe, Joseph Kaih, Samuel J. Gee and Karbakar Noah.

Dr. Gwenigalewho has instructed all County Health Officers of the 15 counties to ensure the full implementation of this directive and also directed the Liberia Medical and Dental Council, Liberia Nursing and Midwifery Board, and other professional boards, to suspend the licenses of the dismissed persons consistent with their professional code of conduct.

The Minister said he will use the law to deal with striking health workers since their decision to stage a go-slow was illegal.

In another development, several health workers in Bong and Margibi Counties, who staged a peaceful strike action on Monday, of this week, have made several demands.

On Monday of this week, more than 500 health workers in the two counties laid down their working tools for what they referred to as, unfavorable working condition.

When this Paper visited the two counties and spoke with several nurses and health workers at the C.H Rennie, C.B. Dunbah and Phebe Hospitals on Tuesday and Wednesday, the health workers expressed frustration over the manner in which the Government of Liberia has taken certain decisions without informing them.

The health workers, comprising of Nurses, Registered Nurses and Physician Assistants complained that few months ago, the Government of Liberia, deducted USD55, 00 from their salaries.

They stated that ECOBANK, a bank that the Government contacted to disburse salary checks to all health workers in the country has been deducting an amount of USD2, 00 from each health workers’ salary.

According to them, due to the prevailing situation, they have decided to stage a peaceful “Go Slow Action” throughout the country to draw government’s attention to their plight and to also probe into the situation.

The health workers have also called for the resignation of Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Gwenigale, stating,“We are totally disappointed with the Government nearly every one of us are family people, but the Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has reduced us to beggars. Why should the Government deduct USD55, 00 from our salaries without informing us? We are completely disappointed my brother.”

At the C.H Rennie Hospital in Margibi County, our reporter witnessed the entire hospital closed, with just a handful of Administrative staff members assigned at the hospital at least, to keep the hospital doors open to emergency cases, with similar cases being witnessed in Gbarnga, Bong County, with the C.B. Dumbah and Phebe Hospitals.

Speaking to our reporter, the Chief Medical Doctor at the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Margibi County, Dr. AdolphusYeiah, said that that the latest strike action by the health workers has been reported to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare pending the Ministry’s response.

According to Dr. AdolphusYieah, the situation has created a serious health problem in the county, but said that the hospital still remains opened and is functioning, but with limited staff members, the Medical Doctor and few Administrative staffs.

According to him, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has requested the C. H. Rennie Hospital’s Administration to take daily records of those who will stay out of job, as the Ministry will dismiss all those who will stay out of job.

Also in Gbarnga, Bong County, our reporter vividly saw the C.B. Dunbah and Phebe Hospital doors closed, but, with few of the patients sitting at the doors of the hospitals.

Meanwhile, a motorcyclist has lost his life due to the shutdown of the Hospital in Kakata Margibi County. According to some sources, the motorcyclist who bumped into a moving pick-up belonging to China Union hit the motorcyclist who did not observe the right of away.

He was pronounced dead at least few minutes later after the hospital could not handle the case. The corpse is presently at a funeral home in Kakata Margibi County.