LMDA Cautions Gov’t Against Threats to Striking Health Workers

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Dr. Moses Ziah (far left) and Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinabah (second from right) and two other doctors working at the John F. Kennedy Hospital

-Admonished health workers to return to work while negotiations for better working conditions continue

David Menjor and Simeon Wiakanty

Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA), the umbrella organization of health workers, including nurses, doctors and dentists, has called on the government to stop threatening disgruntled health workers with replacement, should they refuse to return to their respective places of assignment and continue work.

The caution follows the Liberia Medical and Dental Council’s (LMDC) objection statement against President George Weah’s instruction to the Health Ministry to begin soliciting applications from qualified health workers to replace those striking health workers who have refused to call off their action and return to work.

LMDA’s caution was contained in a statement issue at a press conference held at its office in Sinkor on September 21, 2020.

“While we caution the government against laying off our colleagues for staying away from jobs due to dissatisfaction, we are also cautioning all health workers to stop making inflammatory statements that have the propensity to derail the ongoing negotiations. 

“We have always championed the cause of seeing to it that healthcare providers work in a safe environment and are paid their deserving salaries and benefits, including health hazard benefits whenever there is a pandemic,” Dr. Moses Ziah, LMDA’s Assistant Secretary said.

Dr. Ziah said the Government should endeavor to improve the fragile health sector for the common good of all who live in the country.

“It is worth emphasizing that the medical field, like others, is one of teamwork and that every member of the team, from doctors to cleaners, plays a very peculiar and indispensable role in healthcare delivery. In the absence of one member, the entire team is distorted, resulting in adverse patient outcomes,” the Dr. Ziah said.

He added that while the government thinks that recruiting student health practitioners or inexperienced ones is a good thing to fill the gaps created due to the strike action from the health workers, the job calls for fit or purpose and motivated ideas that can spur into desirable and practical results.

The LMDA called on its members working at health centers across the country, government or private owned, to return to work in order to avert any exponential rise in death tolls at the various health centers affected by the go slow action.

It can be recalled that on Wednesday September 16, 2020, scores of health workers under the auspices of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHUL) initiated a go-slow action in order to claim government’s attention on the need to pay them their benefits, including hazard benefits, considering that COVID-19 has exposed them to more danger.

The Coalition for democratic Change (CDC) led government, after meeting with the leadership of the health workers, received a couple of demands including allowing them (health workers) to unionize their organizations, accept and commit an initial US$2 million.  The government, however, refused to accept any proposal for health workers to have a union.

The government’s argument against unionizing health workers association comes in line with the “Decent Work Act” which prohibits such a move by all civil servants.

LMDA, in continuation of its message to both the government and its members currently on the go-slow, said that Liberia’s healthcare system can benefit everyone directly when it is improved and the right conditions are met.

In consideration of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL), LMDA proposed that NAHWUL should seek legal recourse in order to get or not, the certificate of a union.

“We encourage them to suspend this demand of receiving a certificate to operate as a legal union and refrain from making it a prerequisite for health workers to return to work,” Dr. Moses Ziah noted.

LMDA called on the government to reclassify or deal with health workers justly, mainly considering their credentials and job descriptions.

“All health workers should be on par with their fellow colleagues who are making more money. Everybody deserves the same amount of money for the same job done and responsibilities executed,” Ziah emphasized.

Additionally, LMDA has called on the government to replace all those pensioned recently so as to ensure that there is no huge gap in the workforce.

In conclusion of its list of proposals, LMDA has strongly emphasized the need for the government to increase the salaries and other benefits of health workers.

“We are appealing to the government to make a minimum percentage increase in every fiscal budget year for us (health workers). The economy is harsh and the overwhelming demands to make livelihood cannot be neglected, mainly for those at the frontline helping to the lives of many people,” the association noted.

Even though LMDA commended the government for the initial step taken to appropriate US$2 million, it stressed that there is a need for all health workers across the country to receive their health hazard benefits.

“Every health care provider, from nurse aides to nurses, from physician aides (PA) to medical doctors, as well as cleaners, is at risk due to COVID-19. Therefore, everyone should benefit,” Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinabah, LMDA’s President injected.

Dr. Ekyinabah said COVID-19 patients have all been identified through the local clinics, hospitals and other healthcare centers, not only at the 14th Military Hospital in Margibi.

He said LMDA will work with all healthcare organizations, including the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) and the Ministry of Health to ensure that the government does what is right and healthcare workers accept to continue work with the hope that their concerns about better conditions and income are met.

He further appealed to the government to stop collecting taxes, mainly income tax, from healthcare workers until the economy can become better and salaries of health workers increased.

Meanwhile, as the government is yet to reconsider its decision to invite applications from new health workers to replace the striking workers, the Inter Religious Council of Liberia along with LMDA and LMDC held a meeting with the National Health Workers Union of Liberia, at which NAHWUL Secretary-General, Deemi Dearzrua, said ended in deadlock.

During the meeting, Dr. Linda Birch, President of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC), appealed to the striking health workers to return to work, but Dearzrua said while they respect the view and appeal of the stakeholders intervening in the matter, their demands remain uncompromising and they are unbending in their decision to carry out the strike action.

Author

  • 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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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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Civil servants should unionized for the common good, but must be forbidden to strike. The government cannot be entitled to the right of monopoly of any kind. The purpose to unionize civil servants is to prevent these kind of wide cat strikes. And leave room for proper channel of dialogue and negotiations. They come from America and left their educational and experienced knowledge behind. Saying they coming to develop the country . But look no further than the proposed referendum on dual citizenship and all its public restrictions in the law. Now they wrote another foolish law in the so-called Decent Work Act that forbids unionization. When many of these so-called diaspora Liberians have worked in Federal government, city governments and States governments. Only to return to their homeland to tell others that never had to opportunity to experience the knowledge they have gained not to unionize. When in fact they enjoyed every benefits as state , city unionized workers. Some of them are still benefiting from their union benefits from the States. They must be allowed to unionize for the common good. That is what happens in a democracy. Negotiations must continue until a breakthrough has been achieved, with rights to unionize. One chief medical lawmaker in the person of Senator Coleman from the remote village of Grand Kru County has gone into hiding. But as a professional Doctor coming from the cold of America, saying I am going back to rebuild. As a professional Doctor, he has done very little to help out and advance that medical field as a lawmaker. Yes, he came from the cold too to rebuild. Somebody, Go Figure. Diaspora Liberians coming from the cold to rebuild, but make silly laws to stop the advancement of the society and country. That is who they are. Wow ! What A Different Kind of People ? Coming to rebuild what ?

  2. Was this strike initiated by Diaspora Liberians, or disenchanted Liberian healthcare workers? And even if there are Diaspora Liberians among the striking health workers, does that mean they are the ones pulling the other workers by the nose or ears into this strike? Suggesting those other healthcare workers are dumb and don’t know their rights or the purpose for this strike action? Or was it Diaspora Liberians that twisted your president arms or ears to promise these workers few months ago, that it would honor their request by granting them all these things they are asking for today? Or is it Diaspora Liberians that created the equipment shortage in hospitals across the country for which these healthcare workers are crying about? Or is it Diaspora Liberians that introduced the coronavirus pandemic in Liberia, for which these healthcare workers are putting their lives on the line, and therefore asking for some incentives as frontline workers while ingrates like you bluff around town?

    One reason snowballs like you see Diaspora Liberians as threat is simply because they come with the total package-education, work experience, superior communication skills plus work ethics! If you sat an interview with a Diaspora Liberian for any job anywhere, be rest assured the American pekin will get the job. Why? The naked ceerees will blow the minds of the employer. Yor will stay long inside.

    • To your many many many questions, diaspora Liberians coming out from the COLD and leaving behind their so-called total package of education, integrity, work ethics only to tow policy lines, and not being able to provide independent thoughts or ideas as policymakers. Look no further than the diaspora Liberians that came from out of the Cold to lead and to rebuild. They coming out from the Cold to rebuild while leaving all the educational tools and experiences behind in the cold just to tow policy lines, its you James Davis is talking about.

  3. Peter Gboyo, where were these healthcare workers when they were cheering the descent work bill? They lobbied and got it into law. The president can’t repeal a law. That’s the work of the Congress. Are we going to wait until we repeal the work bill before they go back to work? This is another political game. In their negotiations they said that their demands are “unbending and non-negotiable” who does that unless you are a politician wanting to score political points. Don’t let people die. Replace those who don’t return.

    • That’s the point ! “Replace those who don’t return”. George says fired them, diaspora Liberians coming out from the cold says fired them with immediate effect . That’s the political policy line that they will towed without independent thoughts , by those diaspora Liberians coming in government that came from the cold. Yes, local citizens were anxious for the decent work act that promised them a real raise in their standard of living for over 25 years of making US 25 cent per hour. They were anxious for that. But should government employees be penalized to form a union for the common good, because the decent work act was passed which was actually meant to advance their standard of living ? While those who came out from the cold to rebuild and benefited from city and state unions will sit and legislate laws that forbids local citizens from forming unions for their common good. It’s you, it’s you it’s you, Bob Marley says, it’s you I am talking to. Coming From The Cold. With independent thoughts, they should be able to find solutions, and not to just tow policy lines. That’s the point.

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