25 February 2013

Liberia: Health Workers Petition House Committee On Health

The deplorable conditions under which health workers in the country are working is the subject of a petition that the leadership of the National Heal Workers Association (NaHWAL) presented to the House Committees on Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) last week.

According to the 6-page resolution that was signed by the President and Secretary General of NaHWAL respectively, the group is urging salaries, adding that the salary of health workers should reflect merit and the present-day socio economic realities of the nation.

NaHWAL in their petition expressed the need for government to upgrade the Tubman national Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA) to a degree granting institution, adding that each medical and paramedical board should have a division at MoSW with equal benefits and opportunities.

It is also mentioned in the petition to the national Legislature that was p[resented to the Chairman of the Senate committee on MoHSW, Senator Dr. Peter Coleman, and the House Committee on Health and Social Welfare that, while other ministries and agencies benefitted from the across the board salary increment that was announced by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2010, the vast majority of health workers are yet to receive a cent of it.

That the granting of the annual leave be re-arranged at each department and section in consultation with workers representatives, and that not only loan privileges, and those wearing uniforms be regularly supplied uniforms.

The health workers also took government to task over the delays in resuming investigations leading to the murder of one of their colleagues who had worked for the JFK Hospital for 25 years the late Ballah Scott. NaHWAL is requesting that the report of the probe be made public, so that the victim whose body is still deposited at the St. Moses Funeral Parlors, would be given a befitting burial.

"We are troubled by the constant removal of active health workers of the ministry from the payrolls of the ministry on a monthly basis without explanation. We are also concerned that 40% of health workers are volunteers and contractors that are not on payrolls which deprives them of their retirement benefits," they said.

The health workers also raised the contention that the salary of the average health worker in the country is very low, hence the need to re-adjust salaries commensurate with what other civil servants in the country are earning. "We are also at the mercy of bank tellers who announce what is in our accounts because the bank payment system does not allow us to know details of our salaries," Joseph S. Tamba the NaHWAL President said.

NaHWAL is also advocating for an employment package for health workers, noting that the package should include appointment letter, job description, employee ID cards, health policies, employment of professionals be done through the boards and a code of conduct be drawn for health workers.

On the issue of allowances for transportation and housing, the health workers advocated for 10-20% of salary earned for per location, such as 20% for Monrovia and surrounding residents, and 10% of salary for health workers residing in outstations. They also want 10% of salary earned to be provided by government for medical bills.

NaHWAL also demanded educational benefits in the forms of scholarships, which they hope will be decentralized on a county basis. "Government should provide staff quarters and necessary housing utilities for employees or its equivalent of 5% of salary earned for those in Monrovia and 10% of salary earned for those outside Monrovia," they stated.

The health workers also urged government to them retirement benefits in time at least 30 days after the declaration and bonuses are to be paid for overtime and holidays for work done in the ministry. About insurance and social security benefits, NaHWAL demanded that insurance policies and procedures be made available for claims at least twice a year and that ID card and website be made available to enable them access basic information.

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