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Looming health crisis

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaSenator Sando Johnson of Bomi County has described the current posture of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr. Walter Gwenigale and his officials against aggrieved health workers here as being reckless, cautioning that such stance of the minister has a propensity to cause serious tension that may lead to death of many Liberians.

This paper received reports Wednesday that Dr. Gwenigale has dismissed over 20 aggrieved health workers, including nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians, and physician assistants across the country, who have been demanding salary increment and benefits, among others. The Minister reportedly took the decision following call for his dismissal by the aggrieved health workers.

en. Johnson Tuesday in plenary said it is unbelievable and total disrespect to health workers, who have dedicated their lives to serving the country in the face of terrible sicknesses, including HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases and other fearful diseases.

But the Health Minister has insisted                                      that any health worker that abandons job will be immediately replaced by graduating students from state medical institutions in the country.

Last year when health workers staged a go-slow in similar demands, the nation’s health sector came to the brink of collapse. The Health Ministry and other institutions reported cases of deaths and patients forcibly abandoning public health facilities for home or private health facilities.

At some public health facilities, only the Ministry of Health’s assigned medical doctors were there alone to cater to patients. Again, the health workers have renewed their demands. Health workers at the Redemption Hospital Tuesday threatened to discharge in-patients.

The Vice President of the Redemption Hospital Workers Association, Rev. Samuel F. Faley, Jr, told the NewDawn that they have stopped attending to patients and have asked families who have patients at the hospital to transfer them to private hospitals or else, they risk death without medication.

Meanwhile, the Clara Town Health Center, another state facility, has been seriously affected by the ongoing go-slow.

Speaking to this paper, the Deputy Administrator of the Clara Town Clinic, J. Nagbe Koffa, said that the strike action by the staffs is seriously affecting the public, warning it could lead to loss of many lives.

Koffa said he does not support the strike, saying aggrieved health workers should sit with authorities at the Health Ministry to find a common ground than to allow sick patients to perish without medication.

The President of the aggrieved health workers, Joseph S. Tamba, said that realizing that they overwork, particularly during holidays and weekends, in most cases without lunch break, it is important that government provides allowances and benefits as it is done to other civil servants.

Joseph said they were also dissatisfied over the marginalization of over 80% of health workers in 2010 when President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced salary increment for teachers, security personnel and health workers in the country, but few health workers benefited.

According to him, giving that about 40% of health workers at government’s health institutions are volunteers/contractors, they spend their entire lives on the job and die without retirement benefits.

Buttressing Senator Johnson’s comments, Rivercess County Senator Dallas Gweh threatened that if the government, including the Liberian Senate failed to immediately arrest the situation, he will join the health workers to get in the streets of Monrovia to draw the attention of the president.

He lamented that it is unfortunate and disheartening that the government, which took oath to defend and protect its citizens to ignore the plight of the health sector.

For his part, Gbarpolu County Senator Armah Jallah said both the Liberian Senate and the entire government should take share responsibility for the fact that the senate reneged in ensuring that allotment in the national budget for the health sector gets increment.

Meanwhile, the plenary of the Liberian Senate invited Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Finance Minister Amara Konneh and the President of the Health Workers Union for a special public hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

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