It was a sad day for many patients who visited public health centers after they were asked to go home due to the ongoing strike action by Public Health Workers.
The action affected over hundreds of patients particularly pregnant women at various government-run health facilities across Liberia.
The National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia is demanding incensement in budgetary allotment for the health sector to provide adequate medical and laboratory supplies as well as other logistics for all health facilities across the country in addition to three months arrears and benefits owed them.
Government clinics and hospitals in Monrovia and elsewhere across the country remained closed to the public throughout the day as images of patients thrown out of public health facilities from different regions of the country circulated on social media.
Police also prevented the media from accessing some of the health facilities including John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital in Sinkor, the main referral Medical Center in Monrovia to speak with patients visiting the hospital.
“I came to get treatment but I am not having any treatment because they said the doctors are on strike because they are not paying them; this is why they are even asking us to go back home. Well, I have been experiencing sharp pain in my kneel, so I decided to come and see the bone doctor to know what is happening,” Irene Sheriff said.
“My leg have been giving me hard-time for so many years and now I am breastfeeding. I did skin grape but, this time around the leg has opened so I came for X-ray to know the main problem. I am really embarrassed. I really need help and I don’t have any means, no money to go to private hospital, so I am really suffering, I really need help and I am a nursing mother, my baby is just seven months” she added
Caretaker, Charles Browne, whose sister was turned back from JFK Hospital in Sinkor, expressed disappointment in government for the prevailing situation in the country.
“I brought my sister to the hospital but we were told to carry her back home because the health workers are on go-slow. Just a minute for health workers to go on go-slow, you know how many people died today? There was a pronouncement at the Center for people to go take their patients from on the bed at the facility,” Browne explained.
Sick people were forcefully taken from bed by their family at the facility due to fear of losing them as there were no doctors or nurses to care for them.
Browne wondered what is happening to the revenue collection of the country saying “Even my very self, work for the government, four months I have not taken pay, two of my kids are not in school. We just went to the drug store and brought few tablets to take her home. It might not be safe but we cannot afford. It is not safe but we cannot afford. So it is just by the mercy of God that we are living. My sister is not safe but what is what we can afford.”
For now, patients and their relatives can only hope that the government acts with urgency to address the concerns of the aggrieved healthcare workers to avoid a breakdown of vital health services.
Accordingly, Government announced in a news conference late September 23, 2019 that it has responded to the concerns of health workers under the banner of the ‘National Health Workers Association of Liberia’.
The response according to Deputy Minister Eugene Fahgone, include: all salary payments for July and August 2019 have processed and checks transferred to various commercial banks for direct deposit into health workers accounts.
And that adjustment and correction in the personnel listing of the Ministry of Health has been concluded to reflect the proper position and pay grades of health workers under the on-going harmonization process.
Government advice and encourages health workers to return to duty as it remain engaged with the leadership of the Association thereby ensuring the public of it commitment to doing all within its power to ensure the regularization of payments of civil servants expeditiously.
But sadly, such plead by government was turned down by health workers since according to them the problem had not only been with their salaries and benefits, but rather with logistic and medical supplies.
Speaking in a telephone conversation, the secretary general of the group, George Williams said health workers cannot resume work immediately as there was no memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Association and that of government and that the issues raised by them had also been the lack of medical supplies at health facilities across Liberia as well as the lack of electricity in addition to their salary.
“Those people needed the money and because the money in the bank they have to go for it. There are people who left their assigned areas due to the strike and had come to see their family in Monrovia you expect them to go to work tomorrow,”
We were not only calling for money but were equally calling for medical supplies at the facilities, are they saying we should now go to the Lassa fever without gloves to work because they gave us some small money, Williams wondered.
“The issue is not automatic this have been going on for years, we have been talking, and we came up two weeks ago and told them what we were going to do, they overlooked it. But we have to sit and put things into proper perspective because we are not going to go to work tomorrow, after some time we start complaining again and people say it is the health workers again therefore they should do the honorable things.”