Liberian health workers have abandoned strike commenced here on Monday based on “humanitarian ground,” roughly two days after nearly paralyzing normal operations in the already poor health sector nationwide being ravaged by the Ebola outbreak.
Ahead of the pronouncement on Wednesday morning, Mr. Aaron Momolu of the National Reference Laboratory where suspected and confirmed Ebola patients’ specimen are tested, told UNMIL Radio that the go-slow by health workers caused a dramatic drop in the number of samples in recent days.
He said this drop was simply due to the health workers not collecting the samples as a result of the strike action, saying they had just about six samples on Saturday and reported on Monday, while on Tuesday, another 14 samples were reported.
But prior to the strike, he said at the referral centers at ELWA and Island Hospitals in Montserrado, there were testing samples in the range of 40, 70 or 74 daily since those centers were opened, opposed to what was being reported since the go-slow action.
Announcing an end to the strike, Secretary General George Williams told UNMIL Radio’s ‘Coffee Break’ that the “go-slow was very effective and we have called-off the go-slow based on humanitarian grounds.”
He said they were returning to duty on humanitarian grounds because according to him, “government failed to turn out to the negotiation table,” but health workers see reason to call-off the action, considering appeals from Liberians at home and abroad. The health workers’ go-slow comes at a time the UN is reporting that Ebola “is winning the race as 4,447 victims have died mainly in West Africa.
The WHO’s latest troubling projection is that infection rate could reach 5,000 to 10,000 new cases a week within two months if global efforts to combat the spread of infection were not stepped up, the BBC reported on Wednesday morning.
Asked who pays for those lives that were lost in Liberia during the health workers’ strike, Mr. Williams blames government, arguing that the strike was provoked by government’s alleged show of disrespect for health workers, who he said, are dying in the field.He cited health workers’ demands for protective gears, training, and alleged conflict over risk benefits for health workers as some key factors that prompted the go-slow.
“…You will see in the face of that, government has been fluctuating the agreement on what will be the risk benefit for health workers. They started with $750; they went up to $1,500 United States Dollars; they came down to $1,000 United States Dollars,” he said.
Mr. Williams continued that within the period of three weeks, they will drop the amount to $850; $750, and finally down to $435 USD. Fearing apparent inconsistencies on the risk benefit, he said health workers decided that there should be a formal contract that will commit government to avoid abrupt changes.
Opposed to their demands, he claimed the Government had called up some leaders of the health workers association, including their President Mr. Tamba, where according to him, Finance and Development Planning Minister made a Power-Point presentation.
Following that, Mr. Williams claimed that the health workers’ leadership did not consult with the membership before making a sudden pronouncement that allegedly committed them to an agreement, allegedly signed with the Government.