Health workers at the Island Clinic at Bushrod Island have decided to end their strike and resume work until their needs of better working conditions, risk benefits and employment payment can be met.
On Monday, many health workers, hygienic workers and security guards working at the Island Clinic Ebola treatment center were optimistic about a planned strike that could possibly help their appeals to be heard.
But instead, they were met by Rep. Saah Joseph of District 8, Montserrado County, who said he was on the scene “as a follow up of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s previous visit to the hospital on Saturday October 11, 2014.”
According to Mr. Joseph, there was an arrangement made over the weekend during the President’s visit to the ETU in relation to the public outcry by the workers. The workers are said to be dissatisfied with low income or no income at all, and also being shortlisted or not being on the employment list at all.
“The arrangement arrived at during that visit was that health workers would continue to work while the Ministry of Health tries to process their salaries. They also asked for a bus and I have brought one for them,” Rep. Joseph stated.
According to heath workers at the ETU facility, they were told the same day that they would receive a text from various banks. The text would alert them on their pay being placed in their accounts. But many of them say they have yet to receive any text.
“Some people have received their texts, but majority of us have not received ours yet,” added a worker who has asked not to be identified.
Rep. Sah Joseph, who stood witness to the meeting among health workers and the President, says workers were given the opportunity to receive pay then and there.
“The issue is not about money; it’s about Liberia verses Ebola. The President told them, “If you know you don’t want to be on the side of Liberia, you just want your money, walk now and let me give you your money.” But nobody came out, he said.
Meanwhile, dozens of workers stood in front of the health facility with sullen looks on their faces yet again, impatiently waiting for their needs to be fulfilled. Rep. Saah Joseph counseled them in understanding the horrifying effect their strike could cause if played out.
“It affects us if you don’t work. Why leave the job while we’re trying to solve this problem, and watch some of our sisters and brothers die as a result? It’s not fair,” he told the health workers.
He added: “The President says the worker’s that are working here are not even signed contract workers. Then there are the ones who have signed contracts but the length of time they have signed the contract for has expired.
“We are saying that we need a management team that will concentrate on the daily management of the place [ETU] while the nurses are doing their job. We need a delegation of five to ten persons who can sit with the President and discuss what we are up against. But leaving the job to talk about money will solve no problem. When you leave the job, people are dying: that is our point. Please continue your job, form this delegation, let us talk and solve the problem, because no matter what, we will solve the problem,” he assured the workers.
Saah Joseph also mentioned that banks that payments are being made to for the intended striking workers should also help in ironing out the situation.
“The bank should be able to help us while the workers wait for a text from the banks; everyone needs to play a role. “While we are waiting for your checks, let the banks pay you and we will be committed to pay them back,” he suggested.
Meanwhile, a leading prayer group of women who are normally seen praying in front of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s home were also on the scene trying to help in the effort.
“We don’t want to see our children of God dying, risking their lives and not being cared about by the government. We are here to make sure their cries are heard,” one of the prayer women said.
Also, several health workers brought to our attention the strenuous environment in which they find themselves, and said they are working only because they “don’t want to see people dying from Ebola”
Speaking with a security guard who identified himself as the “third shift commander,” he said he had been working at the ETU for more than a month and had not been contracted or paid.
A doctor on the scene said hundreds of people are laying on bed, including one of their colleagues working at the hospital who contracted Ebola and had just passed away.
The doctor said the reason why he had decided to listen and not to strike is, “I have people on bed inside of the ETU, and I can’t leave them like that. I mask my face as if everything is okay whenever I go inside the unit, but out here, things don’t look good,” he added.
Meanwhile, it has also been said that dozens of patients have died as a result of workers leaving and abandoning their duties, an action which they all regret.
“We don’t want anyone else to die. We have the highest success story when it comes to treating Ebola. We are the only unit that gives IV’s” stated Mr. Brown, a health worker.
The spokesman for the ETU, Alphonso Massaley, has stated that his workers will continue working until further notice, as he is optimistic that his workers’ needs will be met.