The National Health Workers Association of Liberia, (NAHWAL), has issued a three-page communication to the Senate, cataloguing alleged misdeeds that, if considered, the Senate would not be able to qualify Deputy Minister of Health, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bernice Dahn for the post of Minister.
In the communication dated April 20 and signed by Messrs George Poe Williams and Joseph S. Tamba, secretary general and president, respectively of NAHWAL, Dr. Dahn, among other things, is accused of constantly discouraging partners who wish to increase incentives of health workers, as is now the case at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town.
NAHWAL, according to the letter, “strongly believes that if government’s agenda is for an improved health care delivery system in the post-Ebola era, then certainly, Dr. Dahn, the former CMO, who led the sector for ten years to its total collapse, cannot be a worthy steward of the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare.”
NAHWAL recalled that it took Dr. Dahn ten years to diagnose the employment of health care workers as a problem, only after the Ministry had suspended and later dismissed NAHWAL’s leadership who had “earlier spoken to this very issue. This has caused us immense stress, including referring to our colleagues who were dying of Ebola as reckless and dying due to their own negligence. Yet, it is she who had failed to provide the necessary protective equipment and training for us.”
Considering the alleged psychological trauma inflicted on health workers, the leadership of NAHWAL noted in its communication that its membership cannot work with Dr. Dahn as their Minister while they continue to grieve in their hearts.
“In fact, Dr. Dahn’s name serves as a flashback and a trademark of distress for health care workers,” the letter noted.
Based on issues raised, and many other problems that the health workers claim were instituted by the minister-designate, NAHWAL’s letter concluded that the outgoing CMO had always been a co-conspirator in the misdeeds of former Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale.
“Health workers appeal to this Honorable body for a Moses, who shall lead us to the Promised Land, and not a Pharaoh, who will keep us in captivity,” the statement said.
Further, NAHWAL contends that Dr. Dahn’s confirmation will make no difference to the plight of health workers and that the vote of no confidence in Dr. Gwenigale would be of no effect where one of his collaborators and protégés would be assigned to continue his anti-people positions.
“We are convinced that the minister-designate is no different from Dr. Walter Gwenigale; we therefore appeal to you Honorable body not to confirm her,” the statement added.
It may be recalled that last November, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf nominated outgoing Civil Service Agency Director General, George T. Werner, to the Senate to replace then embattled Minister of Health, Dr. Gwenigale.
The Senate however, through recommendations from the Committee on Gender, Health, Social Welfare, Women & Children’s Affairs, unanimously voted in executive session to reject Mr. Werner.
The Senate’s decision was taken after the Secretary of the Senate had read the Peter Coleman chaired committee’s recommendation in plenary, declaring that the then CSA Director General “lacked the requisite qualification” to head such an important post as Minister.
In October 2014, the Senate voted unanimously to cite Minister Gwenigale to appear before that body and show cause why he should not be held in contempt for refusing to reinstate two sacked officials of NHWAL.
The then Minister’s citation was prompted by a communication from Lofa County Senator, George Tengbeh, to plenary that there was again rumor that health workers would go on strike if their two dismissed leaders were not reinstated as earlier agreed in a meeting between Health Ministry officials and the Senate.
The two dismissed officials were never reinstated, and the only remedy as far as the Executive Branch of government was concerned was the announcement that Minister Gwenigale was retiring opening the way for a new minister designate.
Meanwhile, the NAHWAL communication has been sent to the Senate Committee on Health, which is responsible for conducting confirmation proceedings on the Minister-designate.