Paynesville — The National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) has expressed dismay over what it termed as the decision of the Ministry of Health to exclude it from the National Health Policy validation conference held in Ganta, Nimba County.
NAHWUL, in a press statement issued in Monrovia said the alleged action of the Ministry of Health, is a clear demonstration of the ministry's total disregard for the professional men and women whose sacrifices over the years have kept the health sector up and running; even at the detriment of their lives.
NAHWUL, which boast of being the umbrella organization of all health workers, called for any decision reached during the validation exercise to be declared null and void until the union participate fully in the process.
Excerpt of NAHWUL's statement: "To this NAHWUL says, enough is enough, as there can be nothing for us without us! Now therefore, NAHWUL calls on the Legislative Joint Committee on Health, all stakeholders of the health sector, to include our development partners, Leaders of Religious and Traditional Councils, the Interfaith Mediation Committee, members of the Civil Society Community and the Liberian Labor Congress, to prevail on the Ministry of Health authorities to immediately halt the validation process for the inclusion of representatives of the workers and return to status quo ante with the already inadequate salary structures of health care workers."
The Ministry of Health did not respond to FPA in a bid to get its side of the story.
In the statement under the signature of NAHWUL's Assistant Secretary General, Deemi T. Dearzrua, the union said the decision to snub them from the forum was in violation of the precepts in count 54 of the very Universal Health Coverage Declaration of 2019 which calls for the engagement of all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, through the establishment of participatory and transparent multi-stakeholder platforms and partnership to provide inputs to the development, implementation and evaluation of health and social related policies and reviewing progress for achievement of national objectives for Universal Health Coverage.
In addition, the group said despite health workers' call for inclusion in social dialogue since 2007, successive administrations remain insensitive to the workers' demands and international best practice.
It recalled that the refusal of health authorities to listen to the workers' union in 2014 amidst the Ebola Crisis did not only lead to dissemination of misleading information on the Ebola Virus Disease by none medical personnel hired for community engagement at the time which led to massive public disbelief and made health workers targets of aggression and stigmatization, but also had fatal consequence; leading to the death of over 8% of Liberia's minimum health workforce.
The group added that since 2016, the health worker union has been requesting the inclusion of workers' representation on the various health boards, but until now, only a handful of boards have admitted workers' representatives.
"We experienced, also in 2020, when the current health authorities did not consider the inputs of the union before commencement of the COVID-19 hazard disbursement, until now, about 60% of all health workers in both public and private sectors have been denied their legitimate hazard benefits including survivals and families of victims of COVID-19, as well as the unlawful deduction of between LRD 2,500 to LRD 3,000 from health workers meagre salaries, just to list a few of our woes, added to the fact that all these are without any accountability, whatsoever."
It decried health authorities' decision to retire thousands of health workers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It said: "Furthermore, over a thousand health workers were retired even as we were being besieged by this Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Pandemic. Again, many of those pensioners worked several months without any notice regarding their retirement but were also not paid for such periods. Worse of all, many of them are yet following up with different offices more than a year following their unceremonious pension for their initial retirement benefits."
However, it commended all partners in health, including WHO, UNICEF, USAID, UNFPA, LAST MILE HEALTH, GIZ, for the enormous support to the health sector.
"NAHWUL recognizes your keen interest in the engagement of relevant stakeholders to include Civil Society Organizations such as ours through participatory multi-stakeholder platforms and partnership to provide inputs to the development, implementation and evaluation of our national health and social related policies and reviewing progress for achievement of set objectives for Universal Health coverage in Liberia."