Health Workers’ Hazard Pay Ready

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The Government of Liberia (GOL) through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MF&DP) has begun paying hazard allowances to public health workers in the country.

According to GOL, the hazard allowance is for health workers working at the high risk Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs).

 The payment process, carried out largely through the government’s direct deposit scheme with some local banks, commenced yesterday.  In the direct deposit program workers’ salaries and benefits are paid directly into their personal bank accounts once they have provided GOL with their banking information.

Modalities have also been completed to pay those health workers assigned in non-banked rural communities.

 The hazard benefit package includes a lump sum US$5,000 death benefit for public healthcare workers in the country.

The GOL has meanwhile appealed to the health workers not to carry out their planned strike action as has been widely publicized in Monrovia. The healthcare workers have threatened to go on strike if government fails to provide them with benefits and supply hospitals and clinics with personal protective equipment (PPEs) to use while treating patients suspected or confirmed with the deadly Ebola virus.

“We [government] are aware that there are other issues that need to be addressed and we will make every effort to accommodate the concerns of our health workers while counting on their professionalism and patriotism,” Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh said.

 “There is absolutely no need for any go-slow or walk out as the government is prepared to listen and take actions appropriately,” he assured the health workers.

On September 30, the government reached a ‘bumper’ hazard pay agreement with the public health workers following a closed door meeting with the leadership of various healthcare workers’ associations under the auspices of the Liberia Medical and Dental Counsel (LMDC) held at the LMDC’s office in Monrovia.

The deal is expected to cost the government about US$30 million over a six-month period beginning September and is intended to ensure that healthcare workers, who have abandoned health facilities, return to work to fight the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the country.

 The Ebola virus has already killed about 82 healthcare workers in Liberia and infected over 80 others who are undergoing treatment at separate Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) in Monrovia.

 The government agreed to pay a lump sum US$5,000 death benefit to family of each healthcare worker who died while treating people with Ebola.

 The agreement also includes the hazard pay for healthcare workers engaged directly in the fight against Ebola and those that are not on the frontline fighting the disease.

 Those directly involved in fighting the Ebola epidemic will receive monthly hazard pay as follows: Ebola Treatment Unit supervisor will receive US$850, medical doctors US$825, nurses US$435, Lab technicians US$435 while ETU managers and general practitioners will receive US$450 each.

 Ambulance drivers will receive monthly hazard pay of US$350, Ebola case investigators and social workers US$350, hygienist and logisticians US$300 while janitors, contact tracers and security personnel will receive US$250 respectively.

 Also benefiting from the government’s monthly hazard pay program are doctors, nurses and other health practitioners who are not dealing with Ebola related cases.

According to the agreement, medical doctors in this category will each receive US$350 while nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, midwives and lab technicians will respective US$300 each.

The Government has meanwhile assured the men and women on the frontline in the fight against the Ebola disease that it will do everything to ensure that all benefits promised are paid on time.

“We remain aware that no amount of money can compensate them for the risk they are taking and the services they are rendering to our beloved country. And for this the Government continues to commend them and encourage them to continue their service to their country,” an MF&DP statement quoted Finance Minister Konneh as saying on Thursday.

“When Ebola struck our country, it was our healthcare workers that were hurt the most. These men and women are the soldiers on the frontline of this fight and so we must appreciate the sacrifices they are making,” Minister Konneh had said during the signing ceremony with the leadership of the healthcare workers on September 30.

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