FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

5 September 2014

Liberia: JFK Workers Demand Incentives, PPEs in Renewed Protest

Monrovia — The John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Liberia's biggest referral hospital on Thursday experienced a second protest action from health workers within three days following another protest on Monday. Thursday protest paralyzed normal activities and lasted all day as several employees of the health facility held placards demanding better wages, insurance and advanced personal protective equipment amongst many others.

The workers protest action coincided with the regular press briefing of the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism who had invited journalists from diverse media houses to ascertain the level of work the JFK is doing in tackling the Ebola virus.

Speaking to journalists' right before the hospital's administrative building the workers maintained that despite their relentless efforts in helping to save lives at the government-run hospital their bosses have ignored calls for improvement in salaries and health insurance packages and in some cases their wages are delayed for months.

Said one protester only known as Abraham: "We are calling on the international community to come to our aid. We work from January to December but we don't realize anything good for our family and us. The management went and told the international community that the least paid person at the JFK is earning three hundred fifty United States dollars that is a blatant lie. The least paid person is not even realizing one hundred and fifty USD."

Another protester told FPA that any attempt for workers to voice out their grievances, they are often threatened with dismissal from members of the hospital's administration who continue to trash their plight. Weedor Geleh, a health worker at the nursing department of Nursing told FrontPage Africa: "You know, since Ebola came to town the Health workers have been a major target especially nurses and doctors. So if you want JFK to be open as a national referral hospital people will be pouring in but then what is the motivation for us.

What is the motivation for me as a Nurse that in case something happens to me tomorrow my family will benefit? For now we are making close to US$325. 00 and the other time they said we were to receive three months advance salary but that's a lie. It's just this morning they put up memo that we should go for money for August month."

According the health worker, they (health workers) remained on the job until the end of July and even worked further till August when the hospital was closed and patients were still being treated at the early stage of the hospital's closure.

Geleh also said: "We don't have proper PPEs to wear. We have those substandard plastic PPEs and we are not going to risk our lives for JFK. Other nurses were on strike and we were saving lives. I think you heard that nurses were on strike at JFK? We were the only people here working while others were on strike. Then, while is it that when we are in this time of distress they will not come to our aid?"

Since the reopening of the JFK after it was shut down as a result of the Ebola outbreak, which resulted in the death of several doctors and nurses at the facility, the hospital has been recently embroiled with protest from health workers either claiming better incentives or adequate protective equipment.

On Thursday morning, some health workers working at the Ebola treatment center at the hospital took to the airwaves to demand for money owed them by the hospital and the Health Ministry. Thursday's protest followed another protest on Monday at the same JFK.

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