10 August 2014

Liberia: President Sirleaf Meets With Healthcare Workers - Promised to Settle All Outstanding Incentives Beginning This Week

Photo: Boakai Fofana/AllAfrica
Women volunteers organize roadside prayers against the Ebola outbreak, distributing flyers amongst and asking passersby to wash their hands.

The Government of Liberia has renewed its commitment to the protection of healthcare workers in the wake of the Ebola virus outbreak that has claimed the lives of over 250 persons in Liberia.

According to an Executive Mansion release, at a mass meeting with health workers at the weekend at the Monrovia City Hall, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Government was aware of the task confronting health workers in the fight against the Ebola virus disease and offered sincere apologies to them for the manner in which it confronted the outbreak at the early stages and promised more robust actions in eradicating the virus.

Responding to concerns highlighted by the healthcare workers during the meeting, the Liberian leader admitted that Government was a little slow in responding to the Ebola virus outbreak from the inception but said it was all due to the inexperience Liberia had in fighting this strange disease.

As part of further measures to fight the disease, President Sirleaf said Government has brought in huge consignment of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers and have instituted a number of other measures.

She appealed to the healthcare workers to return to their respective health facilities to resume normal duties following their closure to decontaminate the facilities. Most of the healthcare facilities were closed to have them fumigated following deaths of Ebola victims including healthcare workers at these institutions.

"We have always felt uneasy whenever we hear that a Liberian including a health worker dies from Ebola; that is why in an effort to stop more deaths we have all gathered here to come to a common ground in this fight," the Liberian leader told the jammed packed Monrovia City Hall Theater where health workers had assembled.

She informed the healthcare workers of the vigorous efforts Government is instituting for them, including transporting food and incentives to areas now quarantined across the country as part of measures to stop further spread of the virus.

President Sirleaf promised to settle all outstanding incentives of healthcare workers beginning this week and further promised to hold more consultations on the conditions under which healthcare workers continue to work for prompt action.

For the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC), who also attended the meeting, the reopening of all healthcare facilities was the best thing to do; but warned that decontamination should take place before those hospital affected are opened.

The head of the LMDC, Dr. John Mulbah, dispelled rumors that health workers were not willing to work but were asking for extra incentives which he urged Government to see reason to act upon. He also spoke of the need for health care practitioners to be insured.

"While Government was working to address our demands," Dr. Mulbah said amidst cheers from the healthcare workers, "I like to call on all healthcare workers to see themselves as the only one that can fight this virus in the frontline and we should see it as that. As Government does its parts, we have to do our part."

He used the occasion to warn pharmacists and drug store owners not to be tempted to transform their entities into clinics and hospitals as this would be extremely dangerous against the Ebola fight.

Speaking earlier, the Secretary General of the National Health Workers Association (NHWA), George O. Williams, thanked President Sirleaf for the opportunity to meet with them which had long been their wish aimed at advancing solutions in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease.

Among many, Mr. Williams requested that Government provides health workers risk and death benefits, training, as well as increase Ebola treatment centers.

He reminded Government that healthcare workers who are in the frontline of the fight were not adequately protected; as the result many healthcare workers have died terming it as unacceptable.

The NHWA Secretary-General, however, renewed the healthcare workers commitment to the oath they took to save lives and believe they have been living up to it, but this had been hindered by the lack of personal protective equipment.

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