Members of the Liberian Senate have overwhelmingly rejected the newly appointed Health Minister, Mr. George Werner.
The Senate took the decision based on the confirmation report from the Health, Gender and Social Welfare Committee headed by former Health Minister, Dr. Peter Coleman now senator of Grand Kru County.
In Tuesday’s sitting of the plenary of the upper house of the Liberian Legislature, the committee in its report said that Mr. Werner lack proper qualifications to serve in such position especially with the country at war with deadly Ebola Virus.
Mr. Werner, formerly head of the Civil Service Agency or CSA was appointed to that position by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, replacing aging former Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwanigale who served in that since inception of the term of the Unity Party led government.
Addressing reporters following the closed doors session of senators, Senate Pro-tempore Gbehnzohngar Milton Findley said that the decision of the senate is based on recommendations of the committee and that action timely and appropriate at the time.
Meanwhile, reports from the closed doors session indicate that members of the senate failed to file a motion of reconsideration, meaning, legislatively, the confirmation of Mr. Werner will never be talk again until the president can re-nominate to the post.
But under the Liberian law, the president can make acting for the rest of her three years tenure.
Mr. Werner’s current position as CSA Director General earned him some “enemies” in the senate, especially when he embarked on the ambitious plan to downsize the civil service in the peak of the Ebola virus, prompting that august body to summon him. He appeared before the senate, but left with a fine of Liberian dollars 4,099.99 for contempt.
These are the very people responsible to confirm his new post, some of whom will be working with him to show his handiwork as Minister of Health and Social Welfare when confirmed.
The Secretary General of the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NHWAL), Mr. George Poe Williams, told this newspaper that NHWAL sees his appointment as “old wine in new bottle and recycling of the same people.”
Williams, who is also the spokesperson for the association, said Mr. Werner’s track record of his intervention to settle the strike between health workers and the outgoing Health Minister has not been good.
“We’ll welcome him with open arms if he is coming with the needed, true reforms; but if he is coming to continue Dr. Gwenigale’s legacy, we are not happy and he is going to meet us,” Williams stated.
According to him, Werner and Dr. Gwenigale on December 26, 2013 crafted a document to reduce the incentives of health workers, who were on Global Fund incentive.
Before he became CSA boss, Mr. Werner was for two years Senior Technical Advisor to the Director General of the CSA, while at the same time chairing the Liberian Government’s Inter-ministerial Scholarships Committee.
The Health Min-designate is both an Educator and a Clinician. He has taught high schools in Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United States. He has also taught Penology and Social Deviance and Social Policy at the Catholic-owned Mother Patern College of Health Sciences.
He has worked as a Clinical Therapist focusing on juvenile sexual abuse and behavioral health treatment for Resources for Human Development, Inc., and Universal Health Services, Inc., both in the USA.
He earned the Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, in May 2009. He also holds a Bachelors of Arts (General Education with Religious Studies) from Marist College (Africa), now integrated into the Catholic University of East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.
He also studied Medical Ethics (for one semester) at the St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and English Didactics (for one year) at the University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa.