Breakthrough in Health Impasse

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After more than six hours of tense closed-door dialogue at the Capitol Building Wednesday, February 19, there are clear indications that the health impasse that grappled the nation two days ago may have been resolved.

Emerging from the seven-hour long meeting, Senate Pro-Temp, Gbehzohngar M. Findley, told journalists, who had been tirelessly waiting, that the leadership of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL) had agreed to stop their strike action.

He added, however, that a detailed communication would be issued later today outlining what was agreed upon in the meeting. He disclosed that some of the health workers’ demands were dropped but that they would be paid, one their key demands.

NAHWAL's leadership was probably advised not to speak to the press, as they were very tight lipped and refused to take questions from reporters, let alone engage in any conversations.

Our senior Legislative reporter, Mr. Burgess Carter, said the Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, had earlier written an excuse but later showed up apparently due to the national implications of the strike, which paralyzed all of the public health facilities around the country. Public health facilities cater for more than 75 percent of people who visit health facilities in the country.

Among the key demands of the health workers was the reimbursement of their US$55 that was deducted by authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the resignation of the Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, along with two of his principle deputies, including Dr. Bernice Dahn, Deputy Minister and Chief Medical Officer, R/L and Cllr. Vivian Cherue, Deputy Minister for Social Welfare.

The leadership had resolved that if these three do not resign, they would not enter into any negotiations with the Government.

However, Sen. Finley said Minister Gwenigale's resignation is yet to be discussed at the meeting.

“It is very important to firstly address the workers ending the strike around the country to ensure that people do not die from the lack of doctors and nurses,” he added.

The Finance Minister and other stakeholders, including the lawmakers and health workers’ leadership, are expected to form part of the meeting today, to finalize the issues of the health workers.

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