Lofa and Rivercess County Senators, George T. Tengbeh and Dallas A.V. Gueh, have suggested that the plenary of the Senate devolve into a single committee to address issues relating to the fight against the Ebola virus disease.
According to the communication authored by the two Senators, “Our suggestion in no way suggests that we do not need the various committees to do their work, but the sole purpose of the state of emergency is for the Liberian Senate to provide rigorous oversight in its quest to defeat the virus.”
The lawmakers reminded their colleagues that despite the intervention of government and the international community in the fight of Ebola, “there are still lapses and challenges, such as the continued suspension of health workers despite the shortage of manpower in that area.”
The Senators further made reference to the threat of strike action by health workers for pay and improved working conditions; while according to them, patients are threatening to leave the Ebola Treatment Units (ETU), because of hunger and the lack of adequate medical care.
Despite massive international interventions, the lawmakers charged, the virus is still spreading exponentially, while they believe the task force response to death (for testing) and the sick (for transportation) to isolation centers is disappointingly slow.
“We are of the strong conviction that a strong oversight in this fight will go a long way in curbing the rise and exportation of this disease. As such, we further suggest that the Senate be briefed weekly, when we are presented with where we are succeeding and areas that are still posing challenges in this fight. This will enable us find a workable strategy that will ensure success.”
In the debate that followed, Bomi County Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson placed the difficulty in containing the Ebola epidemic on the shoulders of Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale. Senator Johnson appealed to President of the Senate, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, who presided at yesterday’s sitting, to appeal to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to ask Minister Gwenigale to reinstate the two dismissed health workers’ leaders.
In even stronger language, Bong County Senator Henry W. Yallah lamented that because of the attitude of the Senate to take decisive actions on some important issues, he sometimes finds it difficult to come to plenary.
“Our colleagues have two major issues in their communication, such as the constitution of the Senate into one single committee to approach the Ebola issue, and the issue of the Executive Branch of government’s unwillingness to implement decisions emanating from the Senate against senior members of the executive.”
It was then decided that the communication, like all others that contain Ebola-related issues, be sent to the Committee on Health, chaired by Senator Peter Coleman, for further deliberation with a final report to the plenary on Thursday.
In a related development, Senator Coleman yesterday informed the Senate that Health Minister Dr. Gwenigale will appear before his committee today to discuss several issues relating to the Ebola fight.