By Timothy T. Seaklon
The Government of Liberia (GOL) has pleaded with health workers who are on a ‘go slow’ action to continue doing their work as all is being done to pay them the full amount of their hazard or risk allowance.
The health workers, most of whom are working at the Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) are on a ‘go slow’ in demand for their risk or hazard allowances which were promised them by government.
Making the plea yesterday at the daily Ebola Press Conference held at the Ministry of Information yesterday, Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwanigale, said the country’s health system is at a cross-road and it is now incumbent upon all Health Care Workers (HCW) to contribute to the system.
Dr. Gwanigale said the system is seriously in need especially at a time when the deadly Ebola virus is raging on and it requires the help of HCW to bring the situation under control.
Dr. Gwanigale said although the government promised to give certain amount with the minimum being set at US$700.00, the government will give about US$400.00 and the balance payment will be made next month.
He said the Government of Liberia is committed to the settlement of the hazard pay which is not part of the monthly salaries for HCW. Dr. Gwanigale said if anyone is on strike because they want the dismissed leadership of the Health workers to be reinstated, they must have well stayed at home.
“Those dismissed health workers’ leadership will never be reinstated. They will not come back to work thus if anyone is striking to have them reinstated, the striking workers must just stay home,” Minister Gwanigale said.
Minister Gwanigale who also frowned on the stigmatization of Ebola survivors in communities called on citizens and relatives of these survivors to accept them into their families because they have been healed and studies have proven that they cannot contract Ebola neither can they get others infected with the virus.
Minister Gwanigale also noted that government does not have to only pay health worker their hazard pay but manage meager resources to purchase drugs and ensure the reopening of hospitals and health centers that were closed as a result of the Ebola outbreak.
Also addressing journalists at the News conference, acting Finance Minister, Dr. James Kollie, said all efforts are underway to pay the health workers risk or hazard pay but same is being done through the banking system.
He said those who have account at Ecobank Liberia have been paid and those who do not have an account are being paid on the counter at the bank while those who have accounts at other banks will be paid by issuance of a check to these banks which include G. T. Bank and others.
“As we speak, these health care workers are being paid and it is our plea that they do not abandon the sick because of the risk paid. We know that their work is priceless because of the sacrificial services they have been rendering the country especially at the height of this Ebola crisis,” Dr. Kollie said.
Dr. Kollie said in the payment of the risk benefit, the Ministry of Finance with the directive of the World Bank, did a comparative analysis of the hazard pay in the three countries affected by Ebola, namely Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia and it was discovered that the payment in Liberia was the highest.
The acting finance Minister said despite all of these analyses, the Government of Liberia is determined to pay the funds with the balance schedule for next month. “We are appealing to our health workers not to give up because we are aware of their sacrificial services,” he added.
Minister Kollie said the government is aware of the agreement reached between it and the health workers and promised that all payments will be taken care of, saying “ the money for this payment is coming from other countries that are helping us with their tax payers’ money and we must be accountable and transparent.”