The New Dawn (Monrovia)

11 August 2014

Liberia: Ellen Meets With Health Workers

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has met with health workers in Monrovia, promising to support health practitioners and create more treatment centers across the country to intensify the ongoing fight against the Ebola Virus Disease.

Speaking Saturday, August 9th at the Monrovia City Hall during a meeting with the leadership of the Health Workers Association of Liberia, President Sirleaf brought to the attention of health worker reports that they were refusing cases that are not Ebola related at various medical centers, causing many deaths.

She said when the Ebola virus entered Liberia in March, the relevant authorities did not put in place measures to curb it because the nation was not prepared to fight, but added, "This time around, I can assure you that we are much prepared now to chase this virus away from our country, and it is only you, who are the health workers will fight this disease in making sure that it is gone from Liberia."

She said the government is saddened each time a medical practitioner die of the virus, because the responsibility rests on their shoulders to save human lives, saying that the government would do everything necessary to support health workers as they serve the public.

President Sirleaf however, frowned at health workers for abandoning their duties in demand of benefits, which she observed, exacerbated the situation. She said from the onset, most Liberians took the outbreak as a joke and did not protect themselves, while on the other hand; government was ill-prepared in terms of materials and training. During the meeting, the media was asked to leave for further discussion with the leadership.

However, following the closed door meeting with the President, the secretary general of the Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams, said they lack incentives on the job. "We are unable to send our children to school due to the low salary received from government; it is not encouraging at all how can we stand to save lives in the midst of financial constraint?" he asked.

Williams said the way forward is for the government to provide better incentives for health workers, adding, "Some of us are not even on the payroll, but for the fact that we are health workers, it is our full responsibility to cater to the safety of our citizens."

"Because we agree to become health workers does not necessarily mean that we should be left out in terms of getting support; the government must issue us death benefit, that which will enable us to do our work without any fear."

Williams noted that the entire country is at war and teachers will not go out to fight the virus but only health workers, stressing, "before health workers can go back to work they must assure us that all those hospitals that were contaminated are disinfected for the safety of our people, because we believe that in order for health workers to render their services to save lives, our own lives must be safe first; no one will see the danger and continue the work."

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