Following weeks of uncertainty, the Senate yesterday voted unanimously in plenary to accept the report of its Committee on Health and confirm Dr. Bernice Dahn as Minister of Health.
The long awaited vote was taken during the Senate’s executive session, which is in compliance with Article 54 of the Liberian Constitution and in line with the Senate’s Standing Rules.
Prior to their executive session, however, Bong County Senator Henry Willie Yallah announced a motion for reconsideration, which according to sources, was not in place. Yet his second motion which is a privilege motion will be disposed of in subsequent sessions.
Dr. Dahn, who has been embroiled in a war of words with the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL), specifically the leadership of that body, now replaces outgoing Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, who has officially retired.
In their report read during plenary, the Senate’s Committee on Health, chaired by Senator (Dr.) Peter S. Coleman, recommended Dr. Dahn’s confirmation “following a thorough examination of the statement made by the nominee on her record and services in other institutions of government.” According to Dr. Coleman, Dr. Dahn served “eight years as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Liberia, [during which she exhibited] caring, leadership and managerial skills and . . . commitment to excellence, efficiency, effectiveness and excellent communication, with skill in leadership and gender, setting in the basic health program development, strategic planning and program implementation.”
The Committee further noted in its recommendation that “with the ability to find solutions and resolutions to challenging problems, and her quality resilience to impact positively and effectively the MOH as relates to building a resilient health care sector, the Senate Committee on Health, Women, Social Welfare and Children Protection is convinced that the nominee has the requisite qualifications, backgrounds and working experience to effectively manage the affairs of the Ministry as Minister. With the foregoing, the committee is without reservation [recommending] to plenary to unanimously confirm Dr. Bernice Dahn as Minister, Ministry of Health.”
The recommendation was signed by Senator Matthew N. Jaye, River Gee County; James Tornolah, Margibi; J. Bleh-bo Brown, Maryland; Daniel F. Naatehn, Gbarpolu, and Dr. Peter S. Coleman as Chair; while those who did not sign were Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and George Manneh Weah of Grand Bassa and Montserrado counties, respectively.
On the eve of her confirmation, Dr. Dahn, reacting to the recent barrage of accusations from NAHWAL over her nomination, told this newspaper that for over nine years as CMO, the two dismissed leaders of that association, Messrs Joseph Tamba and George T. Williams, had never entered her office to discuss health issues.
She recalled that for over nine years when she worked with health professional organizations, she never heard of people under an organization called NAHWAL, and disclosed that over 90 percent of health workers do not have contact with the two dismissed leaders.
Dr. Dahn, however, recalled meeting with the NAHWAL president and secretary general, Tamba and Williams, in the presence of civil society organizations, and the next day they went on strike.
Both leaders of NAHWAL could not be reached for their reactions to the Senate’s decision to confirm Dr. Dahn.
A 1986 graduate of the University of Liberia (UL), Dr. Dahn, 56, obtained her medical degree from the UL’s A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine in 1996.
She later matriculated to the University of Washington in Seattle, State of Washington, United States of America, where she took the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.
A native of Maryland County, Dr. Dahn, who grew up in Harper, Cape Palmas, is married to Counselor Roland Dahn, to which union a daughter, Yonah Dahn, was born. The couple has raised several foster children.
Asked when she might assume her duties as Minister, Dr. Dahn said she understands that the Senate has first to hear Bong County Senator Henry Willie Yallah’s motion for reconsideration. The motion will be given two sittings, before yesterday’s vote for confirmation is reconfirmed. It is after that process that she will take over as Minister of Health.