–The Pleebo Health Center
Following weeks of boycott by health workers in Liberia, the Maryland County health team has resumed work in the county, disclosing its decision is based on intervention by international partners.
Prior to the end of the nationwide strike, several patients who visited the Pleebo Health Center in Electoral District#2, Maryland County, Southeast Liberia like in most parts of the country were turned away due to lack of services.
The health workers had protested for improved incentives, including hazard benefit for the Coronavirus pandemic, better condition of work and salary increment,, among others.
Speaking to this paper in Pleebo City, a 30-year-old victim from Zone #7 Community, narrated that on October 1, 2020 amid the protest, she visited the Pleebo Health Center due to stomach pain but did not receive medication because of the boycott.
Miss Annie Hoto said though it is wrong for government to pay less attention to plight of health workers, it’s also important for health workers to respond to the health needs of citizens and residents seeking medication.
She noted that if health workers abandon work to go after pay and benefits, death rate among patients could increase across the country. Miss Hoto added that though government failed to address the plights of health workers, it was important that they return to work to save lives.
“I think this is the time now for government to speak or address the plights of those health workers because see, our country is still engulfed with this issues of corona virus and the only people who are trying to help are the health workers and they sometime go on strike because of salaries, while patients need treatments; it is very bad”, she had lamented prior to resumption of work by the County Health Team.
She then called on the administration of President George Weah to always address needs of health workers, noting that it very important for health workers to be at health facilities rather than staying home or protesting in the street.
Another female resident, Cecelia Wleh from Andersonville in Karluway, Electoral District#3, Maryland County, narrated that she earlier visited the health center before the protest and received medication with instructions to return to complete her treatment, but when she went back at the health center, the facility was empty.
According to her, by then she had spent about four hours in the health center during early morning hours but she couldn’t see any of the health workers saying, “My son thank God you have come, I visited this health center in September this year and I was asked to come back within two weeks but see, since I came, no one to even attend to me.”
Cecelia stressed that it is unfair for citizens seeking medical treatments at various health centers in the county to be denied medication as a result of protest.
She said although government has an obligation to cater to health workers, but health workers shouldn’t punish citizens due to authorities’ failure to address their concerns.
When contacted, the administrator of the Pleebo Health Center, Mr. Garrison Sayon declined to comment on grounds that he wasn’t the rightful person to speak on the situation except head of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia.
However, the Assistant Secretary-General of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHUL) speaking on a community radio station in the county via mobile phone alleged that government failed to provide essential medical drugs and equipment to health facilities especially, referral hospitals.
Mr. Deemi T. Dearzrua said, Liberia’s poor health system has resulted to deaths of many citizens, blaming the situation on lack of priority.
He explained that key concerns were presented the government, including granting the NAHUL a certificate of recognition as a trade union, better salaries and hazard benefits, considering that the COVID-19 has exposed them to more danger.
The government has refused to grant such recognition arguing, doing so would contravene the “Decent Work Act” which prohibits union for civil servants.
He previously disclosed that if their plights are not addressed by the government their stayed home action will not stop. However, Dearzrua said they resumed work following intervention by international partners.
By Patrick N. Mensah–Editing by Jonathan Browne