The New Dawn (Monrovia)

29 July 2013

Liberia: Considering Plight of Health Workers As National Endeavour

editorial

The adage, "when two elephants enter into a fight, it is the grass that suffers", is currently manifested in the unfortunate situation in which the Liberian health sector is engulfed. Ordinary Liberians seeking medication at various public hospitals and clinics across the nation may have either died or be severely experiencing increased ailments as victims of the ongoing strike action by health workers.

And if last Tuesday's Memorandum of Understanding reached between the striking Liberian health workers and the Ministry of Health is something to accept as sincere, the former should be visibly be seen at their respective hospitals and clinics performing their duties to save ailing Liberians. Following this decision, one would expect that authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare would, this Wednesday, also make their commitment made last Tuesday a reality to finally restore hope to the health sector.

As the direct result of the intervention of civil society last Tuesday during a meeting, the health workers agreed to resume work with the understanding of signing a formal agreement this Wednesday, to include salary increment, better incentives and absorbing of more than 2000 nurses into the system for full employment.

While we do agree that the action by the Liberian health workers may have caused some serious problems of ordinary Liberians in contravention of their 'Oath' to save life, it must also be understood that 'saving life would also require health workers to have life as well'. In as much they may be seen as going against their oath, the blame wholly and solely rest with authorities of the Health Ministry.

The Government of Liberia, represented by the health Ministry, should not have waited until the current embarrassment to ensure better salary, better incentives and full employment for its health workers. The fact that the Liberian Government had always and continue to encourage its citizens into medicine and the health sciences, it must, as well, have already been prepared to fully employ them with attractive salaries and incentives in various categories, especially for those taking up assignments at public hospitals and clinics in Rural Liberia.

It is no secret that every year after Liberians shall have graduated from college and nursing schools, the unemployment rate in the health sector increases due to the inability of the Ministry of Health to implement President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's policy on improvement in the healthcare delivery system of Liberia. One would even wonder as to why this continues to happen when the annual budget of the ministry is very attractive and supplemented by overwhelming donor support? Other than the motivation of the human resource in the health sector, the persistent absence/shortage of drugs at public hospitals and clinics across the nation despite huge donor supplies is something that even beats the imagination of many well-meaning Liberians and foreigners.

We can only hope and pray that the formal agreement expected to be signed between the Health Ministry and Liberian health workers this Wednesday, July 31, 2013 will officially mark a complete renewal for the health sector and all medical practitioners across the country so as to curtail the negative sentiments and actions among health workers.

We can also hope and pray that the Legislature will see reason to increase the annual budget of the Health Ministry and public health sector to purposely facilitate attractive salaries, benefits and employment for health workers, including those graduating annually from universities and nursing schools. As direct 'representatives' of the Liberian people, among whom are health workers, it is now incumbent upon, as well as a national challenge to Senators and Representatives of the 53rd Liberian Legislature to pursue this national endeavor.

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