Doctors, dentists and other health practitioners have raised concern through their umbrella organization, the Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA) over what they refer to as the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s exclusivist behavior, meaning its failure to include all doctors and health workers in the payment of hazard benefits.
A letter, bearing the signature of LMDA President Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinabah, dated May 22, 2020, and addressed to Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah requested the inclusion of all doctors and health workers in the payment of health hazard benefits rather than just a few of their colleagues who are currently working at the Coronavirus Treatment Center (CTU) of the 14 Military Hospital in Margibi County:
“The National Executive Council of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association writes with a deepening sense of concern over the clarification given by your office relative to the COVID-19 Hazard allowances for the health workers. All doctors/dentists who answered humanity’s call to serve should be treated as front-liners in the COVID-19 response, therefore, we are requesting that all hazard payment to doctors and dentists be implemented simultaneously”.
He added, “The rate of infection amongst health care workers is high. Approximately 13.7% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia are health care workers. The health workers who got infected were not only from the CTU. All health workers are at an increased risk of COVID-19 infection daily because we see patients in our assigned facilities.”
Dr. Ekyinabah further maintained that the timeline proposed by the Ministry of Health about the payment of health hazard benefits to hundreds of doctors and health care providers is unpredictable and as such the LMDA sees it as a threat posed to the continuous adequate and professional delivery of services across the country.
He said even though Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, has not formally written to acknowledge receipt of the communication addressed to her office, there has been some phone dialogue and interaction but, the answer to the concerns of doctors and other health practitioners are yet to be given due diligence.
“Everybody cannot be at the 14th Military Hospital at the same time, but the truth is that most of the cases that are referred to that hospital are diagnosed from the various hospitals and other medical facilities across the country,” he noted adding, “We all deserve the same better incentives.”
Relying on count ten (10) of the State of Emergency (SOE) declared by President George Weah, Dr. Ekyinabah said he and his colleagues see no reason why government is neglecting its responsibilities to doctors and other healthcare providers.
Count 10 of the SOE says: “All health workers shall receive monthly hazard pay for regular as well as volunteer workers as provided for by international organizations.”
He said he is worried that his colleagues might abandon the various hospitals and clinics, thereby leaving patients at the mercy of God only if government fails to do what is right.
The LMDA president at the same time called on government to reconsider its decision on the retirement age of every health worker by adjusting it from 60 to 65 years.
“At 65, most of our learned and experienced doctors are still strong and capable of making necessary and meaningful impact. We are appealing to the government to see reason and consider the additional five years so as to help the young ones learn more and be guided,” Dr. Ekyinabah appealed.
When contacted via mobile phone, Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said she is investigating the source of the funding to take care of health hazard payment.
“I don’t know. I can’t say anything about where and how the money is gotten or will be gotten to settle health hazard benefits. As I said, I don’t know,” Dr. Jallah hung up the phone after making her point.
Meanwhile, according to official accounts, of Friday June 12, 2020, Liberia’s total; COVID-19 cases stood at 410; 31 deaths and 206 recoveries.