The Ministry of Health & Social Welfare (MoH) on Tuesday, May 19, commenced back pay hazard payments for the months of Oct-Dec 2014 to at least 1,587 routine healthcare workers in 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties.
With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), four Teams comprising personnel of the County Health Team (CHT), Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Ministry of Health and a bank staff have been deployed to carry out the payments across the targeted counties.
This process is in continuation of a payment scheme, which initially began with the disbursement of salaries and rick benefits to Ebola Incident Management staff during the first phase, sometime last year (2014). The payment scheme is under a $US2 million dollar World Bank grant, using a Multi Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) which UNDP manages.
To jumpstart the payment plan, UNDP had conducted an independent audit of the list of workers to verify its authenticity. The audit illustrated poor planning in the recruitment and resource management for these workers, but concluded that the workers had been contracted and working officially in counties for a period of 4 months.
In the far north County of Lofa, one of the worst hit, especially among predominately Muslim farming district of Quadugboni, the Ebola virus disease swept away entire families, including children, women and men.
The Ebola virus first came to Liberia through Lofa County, when a traveler crossed the border from neighboring Guinea in March 2014. As of the 2008 national census, the population of Lofa County stood at 26,594.
During one of the payment processes in Voinjama, Lofa County on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, Health care workers who don’t have bank accounts were successfully paid. The payment process continued on Thursday in Salayeah/Zorzor district.
64-year-old Gertrude Yarkpawolo, an experienced Certified Midwife (CM) was amongst those paid at the Salayeah Clinic. Gertrude has worked as a midwife since 1974. She said even though the Salayeah Clinic did not record any case of Ebola, but they operated in panic.
“This clinic was never close during the Ebola time. We worked here throughout but with caution and fear that anything could happen….” Gertrude said.
The 64-year-old single mother of five said: “We became even more afraid when we started hearing about the deaths of some medical doctors and other trained healthcare workers in the country, especially in Lofa County….” She said it was a horrible experience to have worked in such a fearful environment.
She expressed appreciation to the Government, through the Ministry of Health, local and international partners and the people of Liberia for collectively working to ensure that the virus is eradicated from the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially certificated and declared Liberia free of Ebola on May 9. Like other professional routine healthcare workers without bank accounts, Gertrude received hazard back payments for Oct. to Dec. 2014.
Gertrude lives in a dilapidated five bedroom house near the Lutheran Training Institute. She said the house was destroyed during the country’s civil war.
The grave of Gertrude’s late husband whom she said died immediately following the civil war is situated in the back of the yard. Gertrude had since lived in the partially roofed house while gradually trying to complete it. “I will use this money to try and complete the other side of the house…” she stated.
Also, 53-year-old, Esther Kollie has worked at the Gbargbota Clinic as a cleaner for nine years. Esther said the Ebola virus killed nine members of her family, including her sister and her children at her rented house in Monrovia. “I was here when they called me and told me that my sister was dead, two weeks later, they told me that they had taken all the children and our mother-in-law to the Ebola Treatment Unit…. When I went there the following week, all of them were dead….” Esther said.
She said even though there was no case of Ebola reported at the Gbargbota Clinic, but they worked under terrifying condition during the EVD period.
Like Gertrude, Esther is also hoping to use the hazard back payment to complete a four bedroom house project in Monrovia.
Payment to the 1,587 routine healthcare workers is in two categories. Professional health care workers which include certified midwives, nurses and doctors are receiving a maximum amount of US$900 dollars, while those who fall in the category of service providers; examples security and janitorial staff, are receiving payments within a range of US$200 to US$250 dollars for the period Oct. to Dec. 2014.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Government of Liberia has been working to ensure payment of Ebola Response Workers (ERWs) through the establishment of an information management system for those paying Ebola workers and by strengthening existing payment systems.
The workers were registered in the information system with job titles, harmonized rates of pay identified, and bank information for payments, where applicable. UNDP had also put into place a contingency plan to cover payments where existing payment systems or resources could not deliver salaries, hazard pay, and allowances to ERWs.-Press Release