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2 Reported Dead – Phebe Go Slow

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaInformation reaching this paper indicates that two persons are reported dead, while several patients were evacuated by relatives from the Phebe Hospital in City of Gbarnga, Bong County as health workers embarked on a go slowThursday morning.

Multiple sources told the New Dawn that two persons died at the Phebe hospital on Thursday morning   due to the go slow action.

Our correspondent said the news of the alleged death of the patients relatives rushed at the to relocate their patients at other health centers.

Some patients on critical list, our correspondent said, were also reportedly rushed to the C.B. Dunbar Maternity Hospital in Gbarnga for intensive care.

Our correspondent said normal working activities came to a standstill, while all departments at the central referral hospital in Suakoko were virtually paralyzed on early Thursday morning March 29, 2012.

The health workers were said to be demanding an improved working environment and better incentives.

During the go slow action which lasted for several  hours; the Phebe employees  mostly nurses  abandoned all the walls  of the hospital including the Intensive Care  Unit (ICU)  and gathered  in front of the hospital vowing not to  cater to any patient until their demands are met by the administration of the hospital.

The aggrieved Phebe workers claimed they were being down played by the administration of the hospital on grounds that the hospital administration has failed to address their plights despite persistent calls.

The striking health workers said they have been engaging the hospital management for the past two years regarding the issue of incentives and placement of staff on government’s payroll- a condition, they claimed the hospital administration is yet to properly address.

“Phebe administration and the government need to define our role whether we are private health workers or in the employ of government; then we will know what direction to take as professional people” a nurse from the peace wall of the hospital which caters to children remarked as she walk through the corridor of the empty medical facility at the commencement of the strike action.

The workers planned go slow was reportedly  reached on Wednesday March 28,2012 following  an emergency  meeting at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of the hospital where they  collectively agreed to stage a  boycott  of their assignments at the hospital to draw the attention of president Sirleaf, who they learned was due there.

At a hastily arranged press conference, the chief of medical staff at the hospital, Dr. Jefferson Sibley expressed regret over the workers’ action but pleaded with them to return to work as the administration of the hospital will use all avenue available to amicably address the concern.

Dr. Sibley told journalists he cutoff his trip for Monrovia where he was to attend a partner meeting with the Lutheran Church in Liberia to find a solution to the workers’ go slow action.

He disclosed nearly ninety (90)  percent of the Phebe employees are now on government’s payroll  but they continue to insist that the hospital administration provide them incentive as was done in the past,  a situation he said is no longer workable  since government is gradually taking  charge of  employees  salary payment.

“People should not expect to be taking pay from government at the same time they want us to pay them we can’t go above our limit” the chief of medical staff told reporters as he was gearing –up to embark on the inspection of the deserted hospital left with  patients.

Meanwhile the protesting Phebe Hospital  workers late Thursday  afternoon resumed  work following  hours of intervention by the foundation for International Dignity, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and Superintendent Lucia Herbert.

The workers agreed to resume work but demanded meeting President Sirleaf and the board of the Hospital, something the intervening parties agreed to do. The New Dawn gathered  that the Phebe Hospital last  budget received  an allotment US1.8 Million from the Liberian government but it is not established whether the amount covers personnel  cost.

Beyond the employees claiming incentives and better working environment, the Phebe Hospital has faced severe drug shortage on numerous occasions compelling patients attending the hospital to buy almost all of their drugs at private medical facilities based on the prescription from doctors at the hospital.

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