FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

19 February 2014

Liberia: Health Works Strike Leaves Patients Hopeless in Liberia

Photo: allAfrica.com
Newly-capped nurses (file photo).

An Eight-Month — The decision by government health workers to go on a go-slow action has left so many patients in dire straits.

At the Redemption Hospital, patients, including pregnant women were unattended to as security guards assigned at the hospital told them they could not be treated because there were no nurses or doctors on post.

Among the seven pregnant women who came for treatment was an eight-months-old pregnant woman she told FrontPageAfrica that she had come to see the doctor because she was told prior to the strike action that she needed close medical attention because her unborn child was not in the right position.

Evelyn Johnson 20, is pregnant with her third child, she leans against the wall looking straight into the open sky, she had been scheduled for an appointment to do an ultrasound.

"I am worried because am already in my eighth month going to nine, and my baby is not in a good position, what if I get in pain, what will I do?"The frustrated mother asked.

"Right now I don't know what to do, because I don't have money to go to a private clinic. What if I go to a private clinic and they ask me to even pay LD1, 500, I won't get it. So we are appealing to them (Health workers) to come back to work."

Johnson lamented that she had given birth to her two children at Redemption without encountering any problems, and moreover it is free of charge, so she preferred there than any other place.

Johnson is also requesting the government to see reason to solve the workers' problems so that they can return to work because they are lifesavers.

Another girl, Asatta Massaquoi, who had given birth on Thursday had refused to be discharged on grounds that her few days old baby is still sick. According to Massaquoi, at night only what she calls 'Learners' or interns are left at the Hospital.

Private clinic intake of patients more

A staff at the a sub-branch of the St. Joseph's Catholic Hospital in New Kru town told this paper that the intake of patients from Monday and Tuesday have skyrocketed.

The staffer said many of them come without money for many of their examination fees, including laboratory, so they just give them medication based on what the patients says happened to them or is happening.

The Health workers across the country started a go-slow action on Monday demanding increment in wages and incentives and also the placing of health volunteers on the payroll. The health workers are also demanding the resignation of the minister of health Dr. Walter Gwenigale and his two principle deputies.

But during a news conference in Monrovia on Monday, Dr. Gwenigale threatened to fire any health worker who will not return to work by next Monday.

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

He 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."

The Health Minister said that the Liberia National Police has been asked to protect all health workers who want to work.

Amidst the ongoing strike action, the Liberian Board of Nursing and Midwifery (LBNM) in a release issued in Monrovia, distance itself from the on-going strike action by health workers nation-wide.

LBNM in a statement encouraged all parties involved to enhance cordial working relationship to address the concerns raised by the health workers to promote quality healthcare.

Also, the Liberia Medical and Dental Council have called on the National Health Worker Association to call off its strike action in the interest of the patients.The LMDC also has asked the Legislature, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and all relevant agencies to resolve the issues causing the strike action.

The Ministry of Health in a separate release said, the problem the Ministry incurred is due to donor-reduction in their financial support to personnel costs.

"In recognition of the sudden and drastic change in donor policy towards financing personnel costs the government of Liberia is absorbing the wage bill in phases," stated the ministry.

It is not clear when this go-slow action will end, but the Senate has intervened in the matter holding a session specifically aimed at intervening in the matter.

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InFocus

Strike Action Bites Liberian Health Sector

Newly-capped nurses (file photo).

Hospitals across the country are reportedly turning into "ghost towns" as more health workers join the ongoing strike action for better incentives. Read more »