The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has issued a statement in Monrovia informing the public and development partners that consistent with its October 8, 2014 pronouncement on payment of risk benefits to health workers assigned in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) across the country, the hazard payments are being made as from the month of September.
According to the MFDP, of the 1,015 health workers deployed in ETUs, the 619 health workers with bank accounts have already received their pay in those accounts as of Monday, October 13.
The 333 health workers without bank accounts are being paid over-the-counter at Ecobank, Waterside branch after a careful verification of their identifications and authentication of their employment.
The Ministry, however, noted that it is observing with disappointment that most of those health workers are not showing up to receive their payment at Ecobank Waterside.
The Ministry also noted that the intent of paying the 333 health workers who do not have bank accounts over-the-counter is to ensure that government encourages them to open bank accounts into which subsequent payments will be made during the payment process.
Of the 1,015 workers submitted by Ministry of Health and Social Welfare who are working in ETUs, 63 were in the categories of carpenters, masons, amongst others who were not originally captured. But the government noted that efforts are being made to have their issues appropriately addressed.
Regarding the issue of differential between pre-crisis hazard pay and the newly agreed hazard pay, the government declared that it has decided to pay the differential for the month of September, with the amount of US$225,000 already disbursed to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The health workers had complained last week that the government was paying less than what they agreed.
“With this disbursement,” the statement said “the new agreed rates will take effect October 2014.
“The Government of Liberia wants to state categorically that it appreciates and values the heroic efforts of our health workers especially at this crucial time in our national existence. The government further wishes to assure them that everything will be done to ensure that working conditions are safe and conducive,” the statement quoted officials of the MFDP.
The MFDP statement emphasized that the work Liberia’s health workers are doing remains priceless and invaluable and no amount of money can compensate them for their sacrifice.
Additionally, the MFDP has disclosed the completion of modalities and is awaiting the verified listing of deceased health workers along with the next of kin to begin paying death benefits. “Once the list is received from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, payment will begin immediately in a transparent manner.”
At the same time, the government has warned that while it is committed to providing an environment for free speech where the voices are heard and duly considered, it will not condone misrepresentations, misinformation and threats, especially during this time of emergency.
The chairman of the Liberia Medical and Dental Counsel has disclosed that it is not to his knowledge if the government of Liberia does owe salary arrears to health workers.
Dr. John Mulbah told our reporter in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that the money issue between the government and the health worker is the risk pay, not salary arrears, which the health workers agreed to and signed.
“I am an employee of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and I can say for the record that I am not aware of any arrears owed by the government to health workers,” Dr. Mulbah said. “Even though it is true that salaries can be delayed, payment does not delay until the end of the next month,” he added.
The leadership of the health workers could not be reached for comments as the president of the association Mr. Joseph Tamba’s phone was off up to press time.
The Daily Observer’s business desk has been enquiring whether arrears were part of the demands by the health workers who announced a strike recently, but aborted the strike following the intervention of stakeholders.
The health workers were demanding, amongst other things, the reinstatement of their dismissed leadership who worked for the government. They were also citing the issue of money as a reason for their strike action. Many people held the belief that the government owed arrears to the health workers. “If any health worker has not been paid, then that particular health worker has an issue regarding a bank account or some other matter. But it is not because the government does not have the money to pay that person,” said Dr. Mulbah.