The Liberian Senate will tomorrow, Tuesday 21 October decide the fate of the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale whether he remains the Minister of Health or to express a ‘vote of no confidence’ in him.
Dr. Gwenigale has defiantly refused to re-instate two dismissed health workers despite a mandate from the Senate.
He fired the two employees at the onset of the Ebola outbreak for leading a strike by health workers across the country in demand of improved salary and benefits, and condition of work.
The health workers two weeks ago staged another go-slow, calling for the re-instatement of their leaders, Dr. Gwenigale has vowed that the two dismissed employees will ‘never return’ to the health sector as long as he remains the Minister of Health.
On the basis of that, the Senate’s health committee headed by Grand Kru County Senator, Dr. Peter Coleman, invited Dr. Gwenigale to brief the committee but the minister insisted that two dismissed employees ‘will never return’ to the health sector under his administration.
The committee then recommended to the Senate plenary to summon Dr. Gwenigale to show reason why he shouldn’t be held in contempt. Appearing before full plenary of the Liberian Senate, Dr. Gwanigale argued that he cannot discuss with the senators, requesting for opportunity to appear with his lawyer.
The minister’s statement generated serious argument in the Senate, with some senators maintaining that the Health Minister is already abreast of the rudiments of the senate, which gives every witness cited an option to appear with a lawyer so his argument, they said, was only intended to stall the hearings.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization or WHO, 95 Liberian health workers have died so far from the Ebola epidemic, and their surviving colleagues are demanding pay commensurate with the risk associated with handling Ebola cases, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids and for which there is no vaccine or widely available treatment
Bomi County Senator Sando Johnon, said that since the outbreak of the virus here, health workers have sacrificed their lives and put their families at risk by attending to patients, who are carriers of the disease, adding that it is complete wickedness and cruel for someone like Dr. Gwenigale to deny them their just benefits.
Senator Johnson said it makes no sense for Minister Gwenigale to dismiss qualified Liberians merely on the basis that they demanded their right, which he said, beats his imagination. Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif, said, it is time for Senators to act on behalf of their people, who elected them. Sen. Doe Sherif called on her colleagues to take drastic action against Minister Gwenigale to send caveat to every public official.
However, Sinoe County Senator Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan, controversially made a motion that Dr. Gwenigale appears before the Senate tomorrow, Tuesday with his lawyer as failure on his part, the plenary of the Senate will take a decision that will be binding on him. Without any delay, Senate President Pro-tempore, Gbehnzohngar Milton Findley, endorsed the motion with a yea and nail votes.
Meanwhile, sources in the corridor of plenary have hinted The NewDawn that the Senate is resolved to declare vote of confidence in Minister Gwenigale if he failed to adhere to its mandate to reinstate the dismissed health workers and ensure that their salaries and benefits are paid.