The Minister of Health-designate, Dr. Bernice Dahn, has hit the ground running to make peace with health workers by vowing to do all in her capacity, if confirmed by the Senate, to absorb health workers into the Government’s payroll system.
This has been one of the contentious issues between the Ministry of Health and the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NHWAL). Health workers, through their president, Mr. Joseph Tamba, have said that they want all of their colleagues to be included on the payroll. More than 2000 public health workers are not on the GOL payroll although some of them receive other incentives.
Dr. Dahn made the commitment when she officially closed the three-day Health System Assessment and Investment Plan Consensus Meeting, which was being held at the Paynesville City Hall.
The Minister-designate’s first public pronouncement, just hours after being appointed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was about the health workers who had threatened through their leadership to oppose her appointment. She would have to be confirmed by the Senate before performing the functions of the Health Minister-proper.
Dr. Dahn, who has served as Deputy Minister for Health Services for the last eight years, requested Senator Dr. (MD) Peter S. Coleman and Representative Johnson Toe Chea to grant a team from the Ministry to convey to lawmakers the importance of putting more money into the health budget so that health workers can be included on government’s payroll.
“We will do all we can to get them on the payroll. Even if it means sitting in hot offices at the Ministry just to get them on the payroll, that will be done. We are willing to make the sacrifices in order to get our health workers on the payroll,” Health Minister-designate Dahn assured everyone in the hall.
As she left the stage, she received a standing ovation from the conferees, including international and local health partners.
Dr. Dahn’s statement has been received in good faith by Mr. Joseph Tamba, president, NHWAL. As his personal response, he stated, “I want to thank Dr. Dahn for this initiative. I look forward to see it coming to pass.” He, however, added that the health workers’ association was waiting to see what happens.
Speaking earlier, Senator Dr. Peter Coleman said discussion on the issue of extra funding to put all the health workers on payroll is now going to be easy for him and other lawmakers who advocate for them (health workers) to their fellow lawmakers.
Dr. Coleman, a former Minister of Health and Social Welfare, further stated that the deadly Ebola virus disease has taught a lesson that there is a need to give health workers good pay.
In his remarks, Rep. Johnson Toe Chea also reiterated the need for health workers to be adequately compensated in line with their jobs because their lives are always at risk.