Health Workers Differ with NHWAL Leadership on Dahn’s Confirmation

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The presidents of two professional health groups, the Pharmaceutical Association of Liberia (PAL) and the Liberian Nursing Association (LNA), have distanced themselves from a recent petition by the leadership of the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NHWAL) to the Liberian Senate to reject the nomination of Dr. Bernice Dahn as Health Minister.

NHWAL president, Mr. Joseph Tamba and Secretary General, Mr. George Poe Williams, wrote a three-page letter to the Liberian Senate on April 20 outlining alleged misdeeds of the Minister of Health-designate. The health workers’ leaders asked the Senators not to confirm Dr. Dahn as Liberia’s next Minister of Health.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently nominated Dr. Dahn to replace outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, who is set to go into retirement if and when the next Health Minister is confirmed.

The two NHWAL leaders accused Dr. Dahn, who is presently Deputy Health Minister for Health Services and Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, “of constantly discouraging partners who wish to increase incentives for health workers.”

They “strongly believe that if government’s agenda is for an improved healthcare delivery system in the post-Ebola era, then certainly Dr. Dahn, who led the sector for 10 years, cannot be a worthy steward of the Ministry of Health.”

However, leaders of two professional health groups, PAL and LNA, have said even though their individual groups are not members of NHWAL, they want to differ with its leaders’ plea for the Senate to reject the Health Minister-designate.

Pharmacist David Sumo, president of PAL and Mrs. Gloria Stevens, president of LNA, in separate exclusive interviews with this newspaper, said that Dr. Dahn should be given the chance to lead as the Minister-proper.  

They said Dr. Dahn, who has spent nearly 10 years at the Health Ministry, is very knowledgeable about the management and functions of the Ministry so she should be allowed to help solve the problems, including some of those the health workers have raised.

They praised her for her competence, qualification and endurance to ably and effectively serve as the Minister of Health.

They maintain that they are not in support of Tamba and Williams’ call for the Senate to reject Dr. Dahn, who they think has “some good things on her agenda for the whole health sector, including the health workers.”

Mr. Sumo and Mrs. Stevens, both said they trusted in the wisdom of the Senators, who will determine whether Dr. Dahn has the requisite qualifications for the post.

In her first public pronouncement three days after the President nominated her, Dr. Dahn told an audience packed with international health partners that she would do all in her power to absorb on the GOL payroll all the health workers who are not on it. She received a standing ovation from the audience.

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