Opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has intervened to restore calm at the largest government-run Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) at Island Clinic, Tweh Farm, Bushrod Island.
Island Clinic was the scene of an angry protest over the weekend when health workers and support staff staged a demonstration to demand their benefits and salary arrears. The protest interrupted normal medical activities at the ETU forcing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to send her emissary, Representative Edwin Snowe, to arrest the situation.
Despite Rep. Snowe’s intervention, the commotion at the ETU persisted until CDC authorities quickly intervened and restored calm.
A delegation of CDC officials including Representative Acarous Gray, acting chairman Nathaniel McGill and youth league chairman Jefferson Koijee and others, visited the center and encouraged health workers to remain on duty as government was doing everything to address their grievances.
Speaking to the large gathering of Island Clinic staff, acting chairman McGill pleaded with the workers to keep their focus on the struggle to save the lives of Liberians.
“This is a difficult period in our country,” McGill said, adding; “laying down your lives to save a family, friend or fellow Liberian is worth more than your specified salaries and benefits that are yet to be paid.”
“Only Jesus Christ gave His life to save others and what you are doing now almost amounts to giving your lives for another person.
“We encourage you to be law abiding and listen to your President [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf]. She has said that she will do nothing to hurt any Liberian in this period.
“I respect what she said so let’s hold her by her words,” McGill told the protesting workers.
For his part, Montserrado County Representative Acarous Gray called for an immediate end to the delay in meeting the arrears demanded by the workers.
He described the health workers as “critical and cardinal to the fight against Ebola,” and maintained that there was no need for government to backslide on its commitment.
Representative Gray assured the workers of his party’s commitment to engaging state actors involved with the operation of the facility, noting that CDC’s doors remain open for engagement regarding workers’ welfare and benefits.
“If the problems persist, our offices remain open for contact. Let us know when government fails to pay. We assure you of our commitment to making sure that government plays her part of the agreement,” he said.
In acceptance, the workers’ spokesperson, Alphonso Massaley, assured the CDC delegation of their desire to fully keep their part of the agreement, but said time was running out.
He wants government to speedily address their demands to avoid future recurrence of their protest.
Meanwhile, Senator Peter S. Coleman, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Gender, Women & Children Affairs, released a statement on behalf of the Senate Committee on Health: “I would like to appeal to the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NHWAL) to kindly reconsider their decision to go on a go-slow action. Any go-slow action will seriously hamper the concerted effort of the Government of Liberia and the international community to contain and stop the transmission of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia, the sub region and the rest of the world.”
Sen. Dr. Coleman also appealed to the Executive Branch of Government and to President Sirleaf for consideration of re-instating Mr. George Poe Williams, Secretary General and Mr. Joseph Tamba, president of the NHWAL, who were dismissed by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare.
“The Liberian Senate, the Council of Traditional Chiefs & Elders and the Council of Churches have also appealed to the President to have the health workers re-instated in order to restore the full functioning of all health facilities. This request is being made especially since the President has promised the health workers of this country that she would give the appeal of the health workers serious consideration. I, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health on behalf of the Committee, and the entire Plenary of the Senate, am appealing to her Excellency to kindly have these health workers re-instated so as to ensure the restoration of normal essential health services and effectively deal with the Ebola epidemic,” said Dr. Coleman.