Imminent Strike: Liberians Warned to Brace for Worst Health Sector, If…
Monrovia – The Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA) with backings from the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) has warned Liberians to brace themselves for the worst as the health sector would shut down if the government refuses to listen to their demands as it has done in the past.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]
At a press conference recently in Monrovia, the LMDA gave the government 72 hours to reinstate 46 doctors it recently classified as ghosts and were deleted from the payroll.
The ultimatum, which begins Thursday, May 10, will lead to severe consequences for the health sector once the government ignores the demand.
As of Sunday, 12th midnight, if those names are not placed on the government payroll, and those arrears are not settled, you will only have emergency medicines be administered in Liberia. And we will start from there,” read the statement.
According to the LMDA, there are 358 medical doctors in Liberia, out of which 70 percent are Liberians and about 200 are practicing clinical medicine, and the rest are practicing public health. The LMDC puts the ratio per doctor to a patient at one doctor to 15,000 people.
The LMDA also wants the Ministry of Health to pay the arrears and regularize the incentive and salary structure of the affected doctors.
LMDA’s President Dr. Louise M. Kpoto, flanked by the Chairlady of LMDC, Dr. Linda Birch at a news conference, expressed anger over the treatment of licensed doctors who have completed the internship and currently assigned at various counties across the country doing their intensive obstetric Care (EMOC).
“We have one doctor at times manning an entire hospital, sometimes two. We cry when we cannot have medication or even to provide basic services for them,” Kpoto said.
She continued: “Sometimes when our patient dies we cry and we blame ourselves because we don’t have ZXY. The challenges that we face are not only medically but mentally.
“So we have decided that there must be an end because this has been going on for too long. How can you take doctors that are assigned in Grand Kru off payroll and called them ghosts? How many government officials can go to Grand Kru? This cannot continue for somebody who puts 15 plus years of their lives studying and you reduce them to just mere beggars. This is unacceptable.”
Added Dr. Birch: “We, the LMDC and the LMDA are all part of this resolution. We signed up to this resolution because the LMDC is solely responsible for the interns. That is why in the draft budget, we suggested that the interns’ salaries be paid under the LMDC because we noticed that when we sent them out and when it is time for their payment, the can be lots of pulling and hauling.”
She emphasized the challenges health workers and their families endure due to long-standing problems affecting the sector, which have been ignored by the government, adding, “What is more annoying is each time we approach the issues, they will take action that will hurt us more,” she said.
In a special statement, the group said the failure of the government to listen to their plights over the years led the association to take the recent decision at its second bi-monthly meeting held in Ganta, Nimba County.
Read the statement: “What is even more disgusting and annoying was that while appealing to the doctors to hold on faith and hope as we negotiate a suitable and peaceful solution, in the same month of March 2018, the Ministry of Health removed a significant number of doctors from both incentive/payroll and labelled them as ghosts, but they were actively working without their rightfully due salary/incentive.
These actions of the government over the years led to a resolution passed and adopted by the LMDA in our second bi-monthly meeting held on the 28th day of April 2018 in Nimba County calling on the minister of Health to make immediate payment of arrears and reinstate those doctors removed from the incentive/salary within 72 hours as of yesterday, May 10, 2018, and regularize the structure of those doctors affected no later than May 30, 2018.
What is in the Resolution?
In the resolution referred to as R1SBM18NC284, the LMDA called on the Executive and Legislative branches of government to comply with its demands which among other things include the implementation of the negotiated salary scheme for doctors as per the November 14, 2016 demands and upgrading of all health facilities in the country.
The doctors and dentists noted that promises made to them by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf were not met and they are therefore calling on President George Weah to fulfill those promises as of July 1, 2018, as a government is a continuity.
They called on the public to brace themselves for a major health crisis if the Government fails to meet their demands.
“The LMDA is hereby calling on all citizens and other residents of Liberia to begin to prepare themselves for the consequences that would follow if this resolution is not implemented in its totality and to the fullest by July 1, 2018.
“We are aware that these periods are going to be difficult time for the people of Liberia but the power to prevent this situation lies in the hands of the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Therefore hold them responsible for whatever happens hereafter,” the LMDA warned.
What has the Gov’t Said?
There has been no official response from the office of the President and the Legislature, but Sober George, Media Officer at the Ministry of Health, acknowledged the concern of the medical practitioners.
According to the Daily Observer Newspaper, George, expressing astonishment over the doctors’ decision to go public, assured that all is being worked out between the Ministries of Health (MOH) and Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to address the issues of salaries and incentives.
George said the interns’ doctors will be paid for the month of April and their salaries will be upgraded to that of licensed doctors as of May 2018.
He clarified that the ministry did not intentionally drop doctors off the payroll, rather instructed the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) to conduct an audit and it was the audit that recorded some doctors and other healthcare personnel as ghosts.