At least 40 Medical Doctors of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA) have elected a new corps of leaders with a mandate to negotiate with the Liberian government to increase salaries of medical doctors, improve working conditions as well as collaborate with the Ministry of Health to ensure the upgrading of all government health facilities.
The 40 eligible-voting doctors were among over 140 medical doctors who attended the LMDA’s elective convention in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County last Saturday.
Dr. Emmanuel K. Ekyinabah, Internal Medicine Specialist, was elected president, replacing Dr. Louise M. Kpoto; while Dr. Abraham Jawara was picked as vice president.
Dr. Yuah A. Nemah, Dr. Odell Kumeh, and Dr. Augustus G. Quiah were also elected secretary general, treasurer and chaplain respectively.
The new leaders are expected to steer the LMDA for two years, beginning February 2019 to December 2021.
It may be recalled that the LMDA in conjunction with the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) laid down their tools on May 13, paralyzing services in government-run health facilities across the country because of arrears owed intern doctors, low pay of medical doctors and what they described as “poor working conditions”.
Subsequently, the strike was called off because of an agreement between the LMDA/LMDC and the Liberian government, signed between the Ministry of Health and the Health Committee of the House of Representatives, which committed the government to implement the following six counts.
That the list of Doctors on the MOH “ghost” list be sent to the LMDA for verification by the affected Doctors; that all Doctors on the “ghost” list of the Ministry of Health be reinstated on the incentive/salary payroll immediately; that within two weeks, the Ministry of Health makes full payment of arrears of Doctors placed on the “Ghost list” including May salaries; the verification and placement of 104 medical doctors, who have been working for the Ministry of Health since 2016 but are not on the Liberian government’s payroll, be adjusted as of July 2018; that the proposed salary increment of doctors be included in the 2018/2019 Budget; and that the Ministry of Health ensures the upgrading of all government health facilities.
Shortage of Doctors in Liberia
The Liberia Medical and Dental Council said as of September 2017, there were 339 Medical Doctors responsible for the 4.5 million population making the doctor per patient ratio 1:15,000.
According to the LMDC, there are currently 250 general practitioners, 21 public health specialists, 16 pediatricians, 12 Obstetrician-gynecologists, 9 internal medicine specialists, 6 dentists, 6 family medicine specialists, 6 ophthalmologists, 4 psychiatrists, 2 orthopedics, 2 emergency medicine specialists, and one of each specialist in dermatology, ENT (ear nose and throat), infectious disease, neurosurgery, occupational health and pathology.
The figures show that the number of doctors is increasing, from the 278 reported last year. However, the constraints of motivating doctors, beginning with their payment during internship and subsequent issues concerning being on government payroll are hiccups that could drive many from the medical profession.