21 February 2014

Liberia: Health Workers' Strike Continues

Strike action by health workers across the country enters its fourth day her Thursday, 20 February with doors of some major hospitals remaining closed.

On Tuesday the Redemption Hospital on Bushrod Island sent all patients home, announcing that its staffs had embarked on a strike in demand of improved benefits, including salary increment.

When the NewDawn visited the hospital Tuesday the strike had intensified with heavy presence of security forces, while Administrators were locked in a meeting.

The ongoing strike has affected most public health institutions across the country with reports that a patient died at the Jackson F. Doe Referral Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County due to lack of attention. In Bong County, another referral hospital, Phebe and the C.B. Dunbar Memorial Hospital, among others have remained shutdown. The Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has threatened to dismiss health workers, who do not report to work with immediate effect.

The President of the Health Workers Association Joseph S. Tamba, said the Government has not provided allowances and benefits to health workers as it is being done for civil servants. Joseph said health workers serve over time and often they don't have the opportunity to go for lunch.

He said health workers are disenchanted following marginalization of over 80% of their colleagues in 2010, when President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced salary increment for teachers, security personnel and health workers, but only few health workers benefited.

According to him, giving that about 40% of health workers at government health institutions are contractors, they spend their entire lives on the job and die without retirement benefits. He also stressed that they don't spend time with their families, even on holidays because they sacrifice their time to work for the state.

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