U.S. Ambassador Urges Gov’t To Pay Health Workers…Following Commitment Of Additional US$5m

By Janjay F. Campbell

United States Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah R. Malac is calling on the Government of Liberia to pay health workers’ salary to enable them concentrate on saving lives.   Ambassador Malac made the statement yesterday when she toured the newly constructed Ebola Treatment Unit built by the U.S. Military along with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

She indicated that the United States Government has given the Government of Liberia additional US$5 million to pay health workers and stressed that it is the second time that the U.S Government has given the Government of Liberia US$5 million making it a total of US$10 million to pay health workers their salaries.

Ambassador Malac stated that the money is for health workers who are in the system and hopes that the issue will be solved expeditiously, because the crisis will undoubtedly affect everyone in Liberia. She told journalists that this is not the time for politics, but a time for all Liberians to conglomerate and fight the Ebola virus.

The U.S. diplomat is calling on the international community to step in and help Liberia eradicate the deadly virus. She mentioned that it is time that other countries come in to help because this is a global fight.

At the same time Glee Dada of the Armed Forces of Liberia who headed the team to the constructed Ebola Treatment Unit in Tubmanburg , Bomi County said the ETU is divided into three parts. The suspected, probable and confirm; and that there will be one hundred beds at the ETU.

The ETU is one of the seven ETU’s that will be constructed by the U.S. Military in the fight against the Ebola virus in Liberia. The U.S. Military is working along with the AFL to construct these ETUs to enable those who are infected by the deadly virus get treatment.

It can be recalled that over the weekend 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 pleas. She said, since they were transferred to the Island Clinic from the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, there have been serious problems between them 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 US$500 but contrary to the communiqué, the Ministry only paid us for two weeks in August, an amount of US$250,” 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. AtatOmoruto 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 went 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, 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 US$1,500, while nurses should receive US$750 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 who were dismissed by the Ministry of Health, be re-instated.