Health workers across Liberia and the government thru the Ministry of Health reached a compromise last week Friday, 27 September which led the former to cut off a weeklong strike that nearly paralyzed the entire health sector of the country. The protesters under the banner, National Health Workers Union of Liberia or NAHWUL had demanded among others, salary, tools and improved working condition.
The protest led a group of pregnant women to erect roadblocks in Du-Port Road community, Paynesville in demand of health services amid reports of deaths in some parts of the country because of absence of doctors and nurses.
The situation forced the Minister of Health Doctor Wilhelmina Jallah, who had formed part of President George MannehWeah’s official delegation to the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York to immediately return home in order to dialogue with the NAHWUL leadership on the strike.
It is regrettable that Liberia, already with a very poor health system had to suffer strike by aggrieved health workers either because of neglect or less attention. Worse still, the recent strike is not the first by health workers in the country in demand of better condition in the workplace and salary.
Detail of the dialogue that led to compromise by the two parties was not made public, but the secretary-general of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia George Poe Williams, appearing in a joint news conference with the Minister of Health Doctor Jallah Friday at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia, called on the entire membership to abandon the strike and immediately return to work.
We believe strongly the ugly situation could have been avoided, if the government had placed its priorities rightly. The health of the citizens of any nation is its wealth. Therefore, the health sector should be treated with priority in terms of skilled workforce, attractive salaries, incentives and supplies, including drugs.The strike was not abrupt. Instead, it was the last resort, as the NAHWUL leadership had sought the authorities’ attention on lack of drugs, fuel for generators and protective gears in health facilities across the country, but to no avail.
Minister Jallah promised to remain engaged with the leadership of the aggrieved health workers in providing them better incentives and supplying the various public hospitals and clinics in the country with drugs and equipment. We hope these are not mere promises. The government should fulfill its part of the bargain, as the health workers return to work.
If the government had heeded the early warning from the health workers, innocent citizens would not have lost their lives because of the absence of doctors and nurses in hospitals on one hand, and the Health Minister wouldn’t have abruptly ended her trip at the U.N. in New York just to return home to address something should have been addressed before leaving the country.
Rather than taking 30, 40, or 50 members delegation abroad on an official travel at taxpayers’ expense, the President should cut down his official delegation to international conferences especially, people who only go for sight-seen in order to divert some of the traveling budget to the health sector.