As the Ebola threat lingers, health workers at Liberia’s largest referral hospital, John F. Kennedy Medical Center, have gone on strike again.
Scores of health practitioners gathered before the Capitol Building yesterday to register their protest against JFK administrators for changing their status by removing them from JFK’s employment to the Ministry of Health’s payroll, contrary to the policy establishing the hospital.
Presenting their petition to members of the House of Representatives, the health workers reported that after returning from two weeks of self-quarantine authorized by the administrators, about 110 of them were issued memos signed by the Human Resource Manager, Ms. Mordu Lawrence, under the subject, “Status Change”.
Speaking on behalf of the petitioners, Madam Amelia N. Geedeh stated that the entire JFK work force was then asked to attend a mass meeting on Thursday, October 9, but the meeting was later rescheduled for October 16.
In that meeting, Madam Geedeh said, the General Administrator of JFK, Dr. Wvannie-Mae Scott McDonald, informed the workers of TNIMA that the hospital lacks the capacity to maintain its full staff due to the slow intake of patients and the ongoing renovations of the medical, pediatric and surgical wards.
Dr. McDonald further informed us that she would be turning us over to the Ministry of Health for reassignment to various hospitals and clinics and that our risk benefits will be paid by the Ministry and not through the JFK, lamented Madam Geedeh.
We were also told by Dr. McDonald that only our regular salaries will be paid and not the incentives and furthermore that JFK will remain closed until such time she and members of her administration deem it fit to reopen the hospital said Geedeh. “We were advised that Dr. Bernice Dahn, the Chief Medical Officer, would bring us contracts for our individual signatures,” Madam Geedeh said.
The protestors considered the memo a scheme by JFK management to evade its obligation to the health workers, wondering, “How can the country’s largest referral medical facility lack the capacity in these critical times?”
“JFK is not paying salaries from fees it collects from patients, but the hospital is included in the national budget.
“The discouraging part is how they could close the medical, pediatric and surgical wards to the public under the pretext of renovation when all of these wards were functional prior to and even during the Ebola outbreak? This is a clear attempt to deny the poor Liberians treatment from other illnesses that are not Ebola related,” the protestors’ spokesperson declared.
The social workers resisted attempts to have their names inserted into the Ministry’s payroll under the arrangement of “Status Change”, saying, “We are not contractors.”
The workers called on their lawmakers to ensure that insurance and other benefits are given workers and staff who are in the thick of the ongoing Ebola health crisis.
Receiving the petition, Monterrado County Representative Gabriel Nyenkan assured the health workers of the Legislature’s interest and concern.
He maintained that the House will act robustly to find a timely solution to the unfortunate situation.