Liberia: Replacing Striking Health Workers Is Counter-Productive

21 September 2020

THE GOVERNMENT OF President George Weah has resorted to recruiting new health practitioners, including army personnel to replace striking health workers demanding hazard benefits and salary increment, which may not be the right approach to addressing challenges faced by citizens sacrificing in the poorly managed health sector.

IN A GOVERNMENT statement, Liberia's Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe said the Ministry of Health has been instructed to solicit applications from "qualified health workers of various grades, including nurses, nurse aides, midwives and laboratory technicians" to replace aggrieved health workers.

WE LIKE TO state categorically that the path being taken by the government may not provide permanent solutions to mountains of challenges, ranging from poor work conditions, lack of supplies, delayed salaries and incentives, among others that professionals in the health sector continue to endure.

IN THE FIRST place, the current strike is not the first by health workers. In their previous protest, the government and aggrieved health workers dialogued and reached a common ground with the protesters returning to work. We wonder why this insensitivity posture by the state this time around.

THIS IRON-CLAD APPROACH comes at the time the country is still grappling with the deadly Corona virus, which has killed nearly a thousand people, most of them, doctors and nurses. They died, while trying to save lives without proper tools such as PPEs and other gadgets.

IN FACT, WE recalled vividly that the health workers downed tools between May and June this year and the Minister of Health Doctor Wilehlmina Jallah intervened, which led to their return to work.

LET'S FACE IT. Health practitioners on the Continent earn very little unlike politicians and loyalists in government. Yet, they spend long hours on the job without benefit of holidays or breaks to spend quality time with family members.

MINISTER NAGBE TALKS about volunteers receiving first preference in the recruitment exercise. But would this improve the appalling conditions at the various hospitals and health facilities across the country? It would not be long before disillusions surface again, once conditions remain the same.

THIS ADMINISTRATION WILL go down in history as the first Liberian government to tell health workers seeking solutions to their plight to go to hell when ruling party candidates are ditching out millions on pre-campaign activities.

WHERE IS THE much-heralded ruling CDC slogan of "power to the people" or where is the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development? Are these mere rhetoric?

WE CALL ON the government to remain engaged with the protesting health workers until a common ground can be found instead of adapting a draconian posture that would soon boomerang.

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