Health Workers Reprove Dr. Wilhemina Jallah

Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Liberia's Minister of Health

–for the assertion that nurses are “careless”

The Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, has been chided by health workers for accusing them of denying the existence of the coronavirus virus in the country as the nation grapples with high COVID-19 infection rate among them.

The health workers, in a strong rebuttal statement, described Minister Jallah’s assertion as “reckless” and out of place. Dr. Linda Birch, President of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC), which issued the release on behalf of health workers said that Dr. Jallah’s statement is not only reckless but also undermining the sacrifices nurses and health workers are making in the fight against COVID 19.

“Dr. Jallah’s statement clearly reveals that she shows no empathy towards frontline workers and there is a lack of coordination and collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the health professional bodies, resulting in lack of confidence in the health system. We would appreciate were Dr. Jallah to provide evidence of the state of denial of health workers, particularly nurses, as reported,” Dr. Birch said.

According to her, the LMDC refutes Dr. Jallah’s claims since she did not provide evidence of the state of denial of health workers particularly nurses as reported.

Instead, Dr. Birch said the high rate of infection among health workers is due to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other protective gear—a situation that makes them vulnerable to the virus.

“Money paid to hotels to isolate suspected COVID-19 patients from the very beginning should have gone towards procuring PPEs and other protective gear,” Dr. Birch said. “We are having a surge of the virus among health workers because resources are being misapplied.

“Dr. Jallah’s communication skills and strategies for combating COVID 19 in Liberia are not working and she needs to see that and improve on it. A statement like this, attributing the surge of the virus among nurses and health workers to a state of denial, is very insensitive. Dr. Jallah is the only Minister of Health in the whole world who is blaming her own kind of such, amidst the sacrifices they are making with little or nothing to work with,” Dr. Birch added.

Dr. Birch and the LMDC’s reproval of Dr. Jallah come as a result of a statement she made at the Liberian Senate, accusing nurses of being careless and “denying the existence of the coronavirus, for which they are coming down with the infection.”

“Some of them don’t believe that COVID-19 exists in the country, some are not practicing all of the hand hygiene, and health measures, some are taking care of patients at home in small clinics,” Minister Jallah told the Senators. “Some of them are being infected from their own private institutions but we have been working with healthcare workers to ensure that we review what they already know in terms of hygiene and precautionary measures.”

But for Dr. Birch and other health workers, such a statement from the Minister of Health clearly shows that the Minister has no empathy towards them and further proves that she needs to review her communication strategies and includes experts to address the pandemic.

“Liberia has qualified professionals with lots of experiences to offer as we strive to overcome the pandemic but the minister has refused to attend any meeting we called to discuss and strategize ways of handling the pandemic.

Dr. Birch further added that despite the minister’s refusal to attend meetings called by the regulatory body of health professionals, they have “reached out to her in a face-to-face meeting to acquaint her with findings and to ascertain LMDC’s role in COVID-19 Response”, but she has done little to address it.

Meanwhile, Dr. Birch has said that she is worried about Dr. Jallah’s plan to retire doctors in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, especially when the country has an estimated doctor to patients’ ratio of 1:15,000.

In shock about the Minister of Health, Dr. Birch said she wonders what continues to prompt Dr. Jallah’s desire to proceed with retiring doctors at this time of a health crisis despite verbal and written appeals not to do so.

“How can you start retiring doctors when you have a shortage of doctors and these doctors are still willing and strong to continue working?” she asked.

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David S. Menjor is a Liberian journalist whose work, mainly in the print media has given so much meaning to the world of balanced and credible mass communication. David is married and interestingly he is also knowledgeable in the area of education since he has received some primary teacher training from the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTTI). David, after leaving Radio Five, a broadcast media outlet, in 2016, he took on the challenge to venture into the print media affairs with the Dailly Observer Newspaper. Since then he has created his own enviable space. He is a student at the University of Liberia.


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