The Ministry of Health (MoH) on May 19, commenced back-pay hazard payments for the months of October to December, 2014 to at least 1,587 routine healthcare workers in 13 of the 15 counties.
With support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), four teams comprising personnel of the county health teams (CHTs), ministries of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Health, and a bank staff have been deployed to carry out the payments across the targeted counties.
This process is in continuation of a payment scheme, which initially began with the disbursement of salaries and risk benefits to Ebola Incident Management staff during the first phase, sometime last year. The payment scheme is under a US$2 million World Bank grant, using a Multi Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), which UNDP manages.
To jumpstart the payment plan, UNDP had conducted an independent audit of the list of workers to verify its authenticity. The audit illustrated poor planning in the recruitment and resource management for these workers, but concluded that the workers had been contracted and working officially in counties for a period of four months.
In Lofa County, one of the worst hit, especially among Muslim predominate the District of Quadu Gboni, the Ebola virus disease swept away entire families, including children and parents.
The Ebola virus first came to Liberia through Lofa County, when a Liberian woman married to a Guinean crossed back into Liberia after her husband had reportedly died of the virus in March 2014.
During one of the payment processes in Voinjama, Lofa County on May 20, 2015, health care workers, who don’t have bank accounts, were successfully paid. The payment process continued on Thursday in Salayea/Zorzor Districts.
Sixty-four-year-old Gertrude Yarkpawolo, an experienced Certified Midwife (CM) was amongst those paid at the Salayea Clinic. Gertrude has worked as a midwife since 1974. She said even though the Salayea Clinic did not record any case of Ebola, they operated in panic.
“This clinic was never closed during the Ebola time. We worked here throughout, but with caution and fear that anything could happen,” Gertrude said.
Gertrude, 64, is single mother of five children. She stated: “We became even more afraid when we started hearing about the deaths of some medical doctors and other trained healthcare workers in the country, especially in Lofa County.” She narrated that it was a horrible experience to have worked in such a fearful environment.
She expressed appreciation to the government, through the Ministry of Health, local and international partners and the people of Liberia for collectively working to ensure that the virus is eradicated from the country.
Like other professionals, routine healthcare workers without bank accounts, Gertrude received her hazard payments for Oct. to Dec. 2014 in cash.
She lives in a dilapidated five-bedroom house near the Lutheran Training Institute. She said the house was destroyed during the country’s civil war. The grave of her late husband whom she said died immediately following the civil war is situated in the back of the yard. She has since lived in the partially roofed house, while gradually trying to complete it. “I will use this money to try and complete the other side of the house,” she stated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially certificated and declared Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission on May 9.
Also, 53-year-old, Esther Kollie, has worked at the Gbargbota Clinic as a cleaner for nine years. Esther said the Ebola virus killed nine members of her family. They included her sister and her children at her rented house in Monrovia. “I was here when they called me and told me that my sister was dead, two weeks later, they told me that they had taken all the children and our mother-in-law to the Ebola Treatment Unit. When I got there the following week, all of them were dead,” Esther lamented.
She said even though there was no case of Ebola reported at the Gbargbota Clinic, they worked under terrifying condition during the EVD period.
Like Gertrude, Esther is also hoping to use the hazard back payment to complete a four-bedroom house project in Monrovia.
Payment to the 1,587 routine healthcare workers is in two categories. Professional health care workers which include certified midwives, nurses and doctors are receiving a maximum amount of US$900 dollars, while those who fall in the category of service providers suck like the security and janitorial staff are receiving payments within a range of US$200 to US$250 for the period Oct. to Dec. 2014.
UNDP together with the Government of Liberia has been working to ensure payment of Ebola Response Workers (ERWs) through the establishment of an information management system for those paying Ebola workers and by strengthening existing payment systems.
The workers were registered in the information system with job titles, harmonized rates of pay identified, and bank information for payments, where applicable. UNDP had also put into place a contingency plan to cover payments where existing payment systems or resources could not deliver salaries, hazard pay, and allowances to ERWs.