19 February 2014

Liberia: Senate to Probe Health Workers Concerns

Monrovia — The Plenary of the Senate has agreed to hold a special session Wednesday to investigate the concerns of Striking Public health workers around the Country.

The Senate Plenary through a Motion file by Senator Johns Ballout of Maryland County after several minutes of discussion among Senators agreed that the head of the Ministry and striking workers be brought to the senate to discuss the way forward on the health workers' strike.

The senator's motion was amended by Senator George Tengbeh, who added that during the meeting, health leaders of the striking health workers' request the their colleagues return to work while the issue is being resolved.

Health workers in Liberia Sunday, February 16, 2014 started a go-slow action against the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in demand of improved salary and incentives.

In a statement by the health workers, directing all its members to embark on an indefinite strike, the body which reiterated its call for the removal of Health Dr. Gwenigale and two of his deputies, said the inconveniences resulting from their strike should be blamed on the Minister for failing to implement the agreements the Liberian government reached with the health workers last year.

"While we sincerely apologize the inconveniences this action may cause our people, the Minister of Health, Dr. Gwenigale, should be held responsible," the Bong County health workers said.

However, sources in the Ministry of Health alleged that the health workers were simply asking to be on par with the doctors in every ramification, especially remuneration.

On Monday following the abandonment of medical stations across the country by many health workers, the Minister Dr. Gwenigale issued a week's ultimatum to the striking workers threatening to dismiss many, at a news conference in Monrovia.

"Any worker who fails to work by February 21 2014 should consider him or herself dismissed from the Ministry [Health and Social Welfare]," Gwenigale warned.

Minister Gwenigale said any health worker who physically blocks another health worker or access to care of patients should consider himself or herself fired. Minister Gwenigale termed the health workers strike action as illegal, adding that they are to return to work "immediately".

"Starting from today, no one will be paid for days they have not worked," he threatened.

"All directors and supervisors are requested to take attendance and keep accurate records of all who are coming to work and those who have chosen to stay away."

Dr. Gwenigale thanked those health workers who vowed to continue working, adding that the government is finding ways to address their needs. According to the Health Minister the Liberia National Police has been asked to protect all health workers who want to work.

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