LMDC Condemns Liberian Gov’t Stance To Replace Striking Health Workers

Dr. Linda A. Birch

The Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) attention has been drawn to a press release issued by the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism, instructing the Ministry of Health, to begin soliciting applications from qualified health workers of various grades to replace striking health workers. 

The LMDC strongly condemns this statement and sees it as unfair and unjust to health workers who are always in the frontline putting their lives at risk. The LMDC wishes to remind the Government of Liberia of the many healthcare workers who died during the time of Ebola and the current COVID 19 pandemic. The LMDC calls on the government to seriously attend to the requests of the health workers and not ignore same as this could adversely affect the entire health care delivery system of the country.

The LMDC is taken aback by this decision when frantic efforts are being made through dialogue to persuade health workers to return to work while trying to find a solution to the impasse. The LMDC sees this action on the part of the Government of Liberia “to recruit qualified health workers of different grades to fill the void in the interim “as a threat to unnecessarily undermine its efforts to ensure that Liberians have access to quality healthcare services irrespective of race, tribe, religious and political affiliation.

According to the statement coming from the Ministry of Health soliciting applications from qualified health workers including nurses, nurse aides, midwives, lab technicians, etc, the LMDC opposes this decision to replace striking health workers with others who may end up being treated the same way as the pending replacements and therefore calls on the Government of Liberia to withdraw said statement which is tantamount to a threat to the entire health workforce of Liberia including doctors and other health related providers. Opting for recruitment will further threaten LMDC/LMDA efforts to save lives that may be unnecessarily lost due to the protracted strike action and must be discouraged.

The statement from the Ministry of Health comes on the eve when the LMDC has extensively engaged the leadership of the health workers and the professional bodies and boards to a roundtable meeting to continue the dialogue while providing essential health services to the people and residents of Liberia. LMDC sees this action by the MOH to be chaotic and immature taken into account the length of time in training of health workers requires to be different from other occupations.

Meanwhile, the LMDC is equally calling on the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health, to address some of the counts raised by the health workers, especially those that are considered ‘low hanging fruits.

Therefore, the LMDC wishes to suggest the following: (1) a six (6) month tax waiver on the salaries of all healthcare workers, (2) prioritize frontline workers for hazard payments (those in administration can be considered later), (3) MOH to announce the commencement of payments and benefits to victims and families of COVID 19 health workers that died as soon as possible, (4) GOL to temporarily halt the retirement of healthcare workers for now, (5) NAHWUL and MOH to seek independent legal advice about the existence and functions of NAHWUL, (5) set up committee to look into the issue of salary adjustment  and (6) set up other committees to address other issues raised by the healthcare workers.

The LMDC wishes to express its commitment to the healthcare profession and the wellbeing of healthcare providers and, most importantly, the wellbeing of patients. The LMDC strongly believes in a win-win situation and encourages all parties to continue with the dialogue in amicably resolving this grave matter. The LMDC equally rejects the idea of “putting off fire with fire”. Two wrongs can never make things right. The LMDC has always stood up for the best quality care for the people of Liberia and will never waiver to continue in such direction by putting the safety and lives of our citizens and residents within Liberia first. In fact, that is the reason why a skeleton staff is always provided for emergency care at the various health centers to save lives and not disrupt the emergency care provided for the patients.

The statement issued on Sunday, September 20, 2020 and signed by Dr. Linda A. Birch, President of the Liberia Medical & Dental Council  noted.

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