Save Lives: Resolve the Health Impasse

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Some 4000 health workers around the country have laid down their tools in a strike action against their main employer, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.  They say they have also lost confidence in the Health Ministry's leadership and called for the resignation of Dr. Gwenigale and his two Deputies, Dr. Bernice Dahn, the Chief Medical Officer, and Mrs. Vivian Cherue.

Now, the Health Workers' leadership's call on the President of Liberia to remove her Principals in charge of the nation's Health sector because of labor differences is, we think, clearly outrageous and untenable (weak, will not hold).

That certainly will not solve the problem; and even if it could, that still would not mean that the health workers would automatically get their grievances addressed.  Besides, the President of a whole nation succumbing to such an ultimatum by workers in any sector, not over corruption or murder charges, but over a labor dispute, would be a bad and dangerous precedence.  Can't the health workers' leadership see that this would undermine the whole process of governance?

The heads of the Liberian Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) and Liberian Board for Nursing and Midwifery (LBNM) have also issued separate statements calling on the health workers to abandon their strike. Both bodies, which accredit medical and health practitioners, said in strongly worded statements, rightly, that they do not support any action that would endanger the lives of patients.

This means that the Health Workers Association is up in arms not only against Dr. Gwenigale and his two Deputies, but against the very people who give Medical and Health workers their accreditation, the LMDC and the LBNM.

Yet, it is to these two professional bodies, the LMDC and the LBNM, that the Health Workers could resort to intervene and help find common ground between them and the Health Ministry.

We suggest that the LMDC and the LBNM should make an attempt to reach out to the Health Workers, find out what their grievances are and try to build a bridge to the Health Ministry, as a first step to resolving the impasse.  This intervention would be a first step toward accomplishing one crucial goal – getting the health workers back to the bedsides of their patients and saving lives.

The only other way forward that we see is for the President herself to get involved to resolve this impasse which, if allowed to continue, will soon begin costing lives.  This no one–not even the Health Workers–want.  We know of no one–not Dr. Gwenigale and the Health Ministry leadership, hopefully not the Health workers themselves, for all their monetary and other demands, and surely not the President, who would deem it acceptable to lose ONE life over this labor dispute.

Daily Observer correspondents have so far, thankfully, reported no deaths as a result of this Health Workers strike action.  We appeal to ALL concerned to quickly come and reason together to save lives by finding a way out of this life-threatening impasse.

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