The Liberian government has settled the two-month salary arrears of doctors who last week threatened a nationwide strike action if their arrears were not paid within 72 hours.
The government without further delay has paid the doctors for the months of September and October, and included November for good measure, thus averting a widespread disruption of medical services throughout the country.
A 72-hour ultimatum beginning last Tuesday, Nov. 15, was announced by doctors demanding their salary arrears. Upon receiving the news of the threatened strike action, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was in Morocco attending the 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22), appealed to the doctors to show “patience and patriotism” until she returned to the country.
However, the Concerned Medical Doctors, the organization representing the doctors, also advised the government to demonstrate its commitment to improving the country’s health care delivery system by procuring basic diagnostic tools and other laboratory equipment for the various hospitals.
According to a press statement under the signature of spokesperson Dr. Jonathan Hart, after the arrears were cleared, a roundtable discussion was held with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other major stakeholders in the health sector.
“The Ministry of Health is proposing that the National Drug Service be privatized in order to improve delivery of basic and essential drugs to hospitals in the country. On the issues of housing and other benefits for medical personnel, the government promised to improve on what is being done to meet those expectations stating that housing units are being constructed in rural Liberia for health workers,” the statement said.
“Also health authorities may negotiate with homeowners to improve the facilities being used and said expenses must be deducted from the cost of lease or rent,” Dr. Hart suggested.
As for the primary teaching hospital, JFK Medical Center, the renovation of its famous intern’s dormitory is to commence shortly.
Dr. Hart added, “The Ministry of Health already has a national plan for health workers that it has been working on for several months.” Following a few adjustments it will be submitted to the government on behalf of doctors and other medical workers, he said.