15 November 2017

Liberia: Stop Excuses Ministry of Health - Pay District Surveillance Officers Incentives

editorial

SOME PROBLEMS JUST don't go away in Liberia, even if its by-product has the propensity of taking away the lives of hundreds of our compatriots. Sadly, justifications are so absurd that it often leaves us questioning the competence of individuals clothed with the responsibility of implementing national policies.

NEWS ABOUT DISEASE SURVEILLANCE officers (DSOs) planning to abandon their posts because they have not received their incentives from the Ministry of Health since the beginning this year calls for concern. Bureaucrats at the MOH must stop dragging their feet and move to remedy this looming disaster.

OUR HEALTH SECTOR STILL remains very feeble despite lessons we should have learned from the Ebola epidemic. Ignoring the plight of these health workers, who are at the frontline to report any potential disease or outbreak from the most rural parts of the country, shows that our health authorities learned just little lessons from the scourge of the deadly Ebola outbreak.

A VERY WEAK EARLY WARNING or surveillance system was one the reasons Ebola swept through many impoverish rural communities, where there are not even fully functional health care delivery services. These DSOs are community members who keep their ears to the ground for signs of a potential disease outbreak; using their vigilance to safe their communities from infectious disease like measles or viral haemorrhagic fever.

BUT THEY ARE REWARDED with neglect and empty promises while all the hype of building a resilient health system fills the air. It is a most definitely a mere showy or a failed move to build any resilient health system without ensuring a robust surveillance structure. Local and International health experts have emphasized the significance of disease surveillance across the country, but ensuring consistency in the system seems to be a challenge for MOH.

HARDLY, WE HEAR ABOUT those in the higher-ups of the health sector complaining about delayed incentives and salaries. Why must it always be those at the bottom of the ladder?

THE NO MONEY SYNDROM is now an anthem but ironically, it doesn't sound in the ears of the big guns. They drive the luxurious SUVs and Land Cruisers and remain insensitive to the plight of the individuals whose commitment would prevent a potential disease outbreak.

UNFORTUNATELY, MOH ADMITS owing these DSOs 11months incentives, but lacks any clear and reasonable explanation for the almost one year delay. This is quite unfair, not only to the workers, but the tax-paying citizens and their families who may suffer the consequence of DSOs strike action.

WE BELIEVE THE SOULS lost to Ebola would never rest peacefully until something is done to fix the health sector. And that would mean the MOH learning from its mistakes and avoid going in circles and giving the same flimsy excuses for not paying its workers any time there's contention over arrears.

WE CALL ON THE MOH to work assiduously to thwart this potential crisis by ensuring it pays the DSOs their just incentives. Further steps should also be taken to prevent this situation from repeatedly happening.

LIBERIANS CAN NOT AFFORD enduring any health catastrophe again, and we believe continuous sidelining of grassroots health workers would further weaken the foundation of Liberia's drive to prevent infectious diseases.

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