What Happens To Ebola Center At JFK…Health Workers Demand Pay; But Gov’t Strikes A Deal With Them

By Edwin G. Wandah

News of the John F. Kennedy ETU being closed met up with serious reaction when several patients who were taken there were refused by nurses who were demanding better working condition from the Government of Liberia, leaving one person dead and another patient abandoned by the strike action.

One of the nurses, (name withheld) who spoke to the INQUIRER complained that they have been working under very deplorable condition which they have since complained to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, but with no redress.

“We believed, going on strike is the right decision to claim the attention of relevant authorities,” the nurse stated.

Meanwhile, on Saturday of last week, a man believed to be in his early twenties was abandoned to death and another left in the open by the nurses assigned at that ETU who laid down their working tools, complaining that their lives were not secured.

Some of the nurses said, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has over and over refused to listen to their pleas appertaining to some better and safety measures they believed could have been positive for them.

Meanwhile, when the INQUIRER visited the Island Clinic in Tweh Farm, several nurses and Doctors were seen freely perambulating the vicinity of the hospital in protest to what they claimed the Ministry of Health’s continuous failure to listen to them.

According to Justine Dewarlie, a Hygienic working at the Clinic, the Government of Liberia has paid lip service to their plea. She said, since they were transferred to the Island Clinic from the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, there has been serious problems between they and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

Justine Dewarlie cited salary reduction as the major hindrance to their work. “We have earlier agreed through a communiqué between us and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to be paid at least US500, 00 but contrary to the communiqué, the Ministry has only paid us for two weeks in August, an amount of US250, 00,” Justine stated.

The Clinic which has more than one-hundred patients admitted on Friday, was a scene of chaos when the Ministry of Health sent a new Administrator to take over from the Ugandan Doctor, Dr. Atat Omoruto who is currently assigned at the Island Clinic but met up with serious resistance from workers, prompting the intervention of Montserrado County District 6 Representative Edwin M. Snowe who came and calmed the situation.

Meanwhile when contacted yesterday, Assistant Health Minister, Tolbert Nyenswah denied the closure of the JFK ETU, but said through a mutual agreement between the two parties, (Health Workers and the Ministry), the health workers have agreed to return to work.

Minister Nyenswah said, previously, the Ministry of Health and Health Workers earlier agreed upon Doctors receiving an amount of USD1500, 00, while nurses should receive US750, 00 when there were only two ETU’s at the time, the ELWA-2 and Lofa.

According to him, after other facilities ETUs were created and, the Ministry decided to renegotiate the agreement, something which created serious problem.

Minister Nyenswah said efforts are on the way to better strengthen the agreement to avoid future embarrassment or recurrence of the September incidence.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Coleman who is Chairman on Senate Committee intimated that the situation currently was not healthy for the already fragile health system in the country. “I would like to appeal to the National Health Workers Association of Liberia to kindly reconsider their decision to go on a go-slow action, any ‘go-slow’ action will seriously hamper the concerted effort of the Government of Liberia and the international community to contain and stop the transmission of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia, the sub region and the rest of the world; it will also impede our effort at restoring essential health services in our country,” Senator Coleman stated.

He intimated that efforts need to be exerted to find an amicable solution to the health crisis. “We also want to appeal to the Executive Branch of Government and to President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf for consideration of the appeal made by the Health workers of this country who are the front liners in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) to have the president and the Secretary General of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia, that were dismissed by the Ministry of Health, re-instated.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Senate, the Council of Traditional Chiefs & Elders and the Council of Churches have also appealed to the President to have the health workers re-instated in order for the full functioning of all health facilities be convenient.

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