The leadership of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL) says it is seriously troubled by the alarming reductions in the incentives and salaries of public health workers throughout the country, while the workers are experiencing daily increases in the prices of basic commodities on the local markets.
At a press conference in Monrovia yesterday, George P. Williams, NAHWAL’s Secretary General, said the deductions started gradually last February with a few low level healthcare workers and later graduated to all levels by last month.
“They started with a deduction of 50 percent of incentives in May and progressed to 70 percent of incentives in June leaving low level health workers with only US$7 to US$9 as monthly incentives, while some middle level health workers who once received US$178 in rural Liberia are now left with only US$53 as incentives,” Mr. Poe said.
According to him, healthcare workers experienced yet another shocking reduction in July, this time on their salaries.
“Some middle level health workers experienced between L$3,000 to L$4,000 deduction from their salaries. This is discouraging and must stop now! How does our government expect us to pay rent for our homes and mortgages for the health workers’ housing units? How can we pay our children’s school fees and put food on the table when our incentives and salaries put together cannot even pay our monthly transportation to and from work?” Mr. Williams wondered.
He said initially, they were told that government had less United States dollars and promised to convert US dollars deducted from their incentives to Liberian dollars and add those amounts to health workers’ Liberian dollar salary accounts.
“When that failed to take effect up to June, it was reported that the deductions would be used to pay newly recruited health workers’ incentives.
“Health workers do not even know what their exact earnings are, given that there are no pay slips to indicate their gross salaries, tax and other deductions. In Liberia, only the Ministry of Health deducts from her employees’ incentives to pay their newly employed staff, even though all other ministries and agencies offer even better incentive schemes. This is unhealthy for the resilient health plan of Liberia,” he argued.
According to Williams, in July, health workers were eagerly expecting to see increments in their Liberian dollar salary accounts, but to their greatest surprise, all public health workers’ pay were again reduced by huge amounts, adding, “This time, we are hearing that there were errors in the calculation of our insurance premiums.” However, he said, the amount deducted from the salaries did not match the period the Ministry allegedly computed the premiums for. “That creates doubt in our minds when we consider the trend of events,” Williams complained.
He said a resilient health work force is the foundation on which a resilient health sector is built. But to treat this foundation with less care and no ingredients of motivation that would concretize the foundation will cause the entire resilient health sector to crumble before long.
Williams believes that at the core of it all is the fact that the government feels absolutely no obligation to the health workers because it does not recognize the workers’ association which represents their collective voice.
“So our government treats health workers any how without the least courtesy of consulting or even informing us when planning or implementing policies that will affect healthcare providers. This has reached an (unacceptable) level and must stop now,” Williams declared at yesterday’s crowded press conference.
However, MOH director of media relations, Sorbor George, dismissed the claims, responding that, “MOH does not recognize George Poe Williams as a spokesperson for health workers, and that at no time did the MOH cut salaries or incentives for healthcare providers.”