Senate Holds Emergency Session Today

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Former Minister Amara Konneh

Amid horrifying reports of patients left to fend for themselves at various Government-run health facilities, the Senate Tuesday, February 18, agreed to hold an emergency session Wednesday, to address the nationwide indefinite strike by health workers.

The Senate has invited leaders of the striking health workers, the Ministers of Health and Social Welfare, and Finance, and institutions and persons connected to the strike action.

Health Minister Walter Gwenigale and Finance Minister Amara Konneh are expected to explain how monies put in the national budget for health workers for the 2013/2014 fiscal year, were used.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Senate leadership was Tuesday told to begin immediately to negotiate with the leaders of the striking health-workers, to prevail on their colleagues to call off the strike, as the Legislature and the Executive meet today.

Health workers throughout the country began an indefinite strike action on Monday demanding government jobs, improved salaries and better working conditions.

The Senate’s decision Tuesday followed after a heated debate over who should take the blame for the health workers’ latest action. Health workers had staged a similar strike action early last year; the Senate committee on Health and Gender was assigned to investigate and make suggestions that the Executive would put to use in moving forward.

But it is a year later, and the health workers are right back to where they were a year ago. As they once did, the health workers are calling for the heads of Minister Walter Gwenigale and his two deputies, Dr. Bernice Dahn and Vivian Cherue.

A recruitment of student nurses or retired nurses was advocated by a number of Senators; the other Senators, however, in the majority slapped down that proposal from their colleagues—“unwise to experiment with the lives of their sick relatives, they exclaimed.

“Any actions outside of appealing to the conscience of the health workers to call off their strike and return to work would only worsen the situation,” the Senators warned.

Most of the finger-pointing was directed at Minister Gwenigale, who was accused of worsening the situation by threatening to dismiss the health workers.  

Senator Alphonso Gaye suggested that to keep the  situation from getting worse, the Minister of Finance needed to look the budget over and find money to pay the strikers; he warned that recruiting new workers would only serve to provoke those already on strike.

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