2 September 2014

Liberia: Go-Slow At JfFK - Workers, Nurses Demand Back Salary Arrears

Monrovia — On Monday healthcare workers at the nation's biggest referral hospital the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital staged a go-slow action of compounds of the hospital. Many nurses, physician assistants and nonmedical staff at the hospital abandoned work at the facility that is currently partially operated due to the deadly Ebola virus.

Gerald Dennis III, nonmedical staff at the hospital told FrontPageAfrica that workers have a number of concerns that have not been addressed by the management of the hospital.

"What we are doing is a peaceful way of putting our grievances forth to our administrator and the general public," he said on Monday as they chanted slogans against the administration of the hospital.

"We need our august pay and also we need increment in our pay because when they go to the media, they say the least person here is making US$350. If you are talking about least I think I should be among those. We are being underpaid."

He said even though the Ebola crisis is pillaging lives in Liberia, the strike was timely and that the administration of the hospital was taking the workers for granted. "I think it is a very good time for the health workers to strike; the health workers are the ones who are going on the battlefield," the angry worker said.

"Secondly, we need a suitable workforce that will be effective and efficient. We want the administration to pay people based on qualification. We don't have an insurance benefit. At JFK, they fire people without giving them due process. Some people have spent two years here and they are still making 7,000 Liberian dollars. These people have created a spoiled system here."

The workers continued to chant until there was an intervention by a radio talk-show host Henry Costa of Voice F.M. He was able to negotiate a meeting between the administration and the workers.

"Thirty minutes from now when it is 3pm, she will meet all of you in the OPD. I beg you all, when you all meet in the OPD; you all know to resolve matters in noise is not possible. If you'll do that you all will not resolve anything," said Costa.

"The reason why all of us in the country can't be in the government is that we will not achieve anything. The reason why only one president we got is because if you got two they will have to agree before they do anything. So you all will have to conduct yourselves in a civil manner and ask questions."


At the meeting held with the workers it was resolved that the workers would return to work and halt their strike action. "The main problem was communication; it was not communicated properly by their supervisors, that is what caused the tension," said a DaylueGoah Communication officer at the hospital via mobile phone after the meeting.

He said workers who had abandoned the facility during the death of health care workers from the deadly disease at the facility thought they would not get paid for the month of August.

"They asked management whether what they were hearing was true that management would pay certain people in the month of August and not paying certain people because they stayed home. After Dr. Borbor and Dr. Brisbane got infected with the Ebola virus, most of the health workers abandoned the medical center and they fled," he said.

"According to them, they fled for their lives because if a senior doctor can die from the virus, they were afraid so they left the compound. But when they came back, management asked all supervisors to send the listing of all of those that have been coming to work." He said the matter is resolved, as the management has promised to pay the workers despite the fact that they abandoned the facility for the month of August.

"When the supervisors started going around signing attendance-signing book, to carry to management they misunderstood it that management were only going to pay those that were signed in during the crisis period, which was not the case. "

"She told them that it was not the case. She told them that the reason they were calling for signing in book was to shake the hands of those who risked their lives during the crisis period. Those that stood on the Frontline when the hospital was totally down, management wants to say thank you in addition to their salaries."

The resources to pay ELWA and JFK are being negotiated according to Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, Assistant Minister of Health for Curative Services told FrontPageAfrica Monday. "By (Tuesday) they will be getting paid. We have been negotiating with them on the new pay scale and how much they want us to pay them," he said.

Under the new arrangement, FrontPageAfrica has learned, doctors are demanding US$3,000, but the government is said to be negotiating for the amount to be dropped to US$1, 500 - 2000 while nurses are being penned in to make US$750.00.


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