Meet Liberia’s New Health Minister Designate

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The appointment of Mr. George Kronnisanyon Werner as Liberia’s new Health and Social Welfare Minister-designate was one of two “shocks” in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s special address to the nation Sunday.

The President’s brief address also contained another “shock”— William Gyude Moore’s appointment as Public Works Minister-designate.

The President’s announcement Sunday and Monday of changes in her government have been followed by heated discussions at various entertainment spots and on airwaves as to the competence and qualification of the new appointees, especially the Health and Social Welfare Minister-designate.  Most commenters said Mr. Werner does not possess the requisite “tools” to be Minister of Health of Liberia, especially during this Ebola crisis.

Health and Social Welfare Minister-designate Werner has meanwhile provided his biography to our Health Correspondent.

Mr. Werner, who is presently the Director-General of the Civil Service Agency (CSA) pending his confirmation by the Senate, has been at the forefront of recent efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector, leading or supporting important initiatives on payroll cleaning; pay reform, and establishment of the new Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), among others.

Before he became CSA DG, Mr. Werner was for two years Senior Technical Advisor to the DG of the CSA, while at the same time chairing the Liberian Government’s Inter-ministerial Scholarships Committee.

The Health Min-designate is both an Educator and a Clinician.  He has taught high schools in Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and the United States. He has also taught Penology and Social Deviance and Social Policy at the Catholic-owned Mother Patern College of Health Sciences.

He has worked as a Clinical Therapist focusing on juvenile sexual abuse and behavioral health treatment for Resources for Human Development, Inc., and Universal Health Services, Inc., both in the USA.

He earned the Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, in May 2009. He also holds a Bachelors of Arts (General Education with Religious Studies) from Marist College (Africa), now integrated into the Catholic University of East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. He also studied Medical Ethics (for one semester) at the St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and English Didactics (for one year) at the University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa.

However, Mr. Werner’s present position as CSA DG has made him some “enemies”, who are going to be responsible to confirm his new post and some of whom will be working with him to show his handiwork as Minister of Health and Social Welfare when he is confirmed by the Senate.

The Secretary General of the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia (NHWAL), Mr. George Poe Williams, told this newspaper that NHWAL sees his appointment as “old wine in new bottle and recycling of the same people.”

Williams, who is also the spokesperson for the association, said Mr. Werner’s track record of his intervention to settle the strike between health workers and the outgoing Health Minister has not been good for health workers.

“We’ll welcome him with open arms if he is coming with the needed, true reforms; but if he is coming to continue Dr. Gwenigale’s legacy, we are not happy and he is going to meet us,” Williams stated.

According to him, Werner and Dr. Gwenigale on December 26, 2013 crafted a document to reduce the incentives of health workers, who were on Global Fund incentive.

Williams said the NHWAL does not see Werner being any better for health workers, adding that “worst of all, he’s going to be advised by the old Minister of Health.”
Mr. Werner will also have to face the Senate with “bad blood” between them. He recently came under fire from senators, who held him in contempt.

The CSA DG had enraged Senators when he allegedly referred to those against his agency’s controversial reform policy, on declaring non-essential public servants redundant, as “irrational.” Even though, he later clarified that what he said was not directed at the Senators, he was made to pay for it by publishing a letter of apology in the some local dailies.

So to go back and face the same lawmakers, who were enraged with his comments and policy, will open up old wounds.

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