Liberia: Health Workers at C. H. Rennie Hospital in Margibi Abandon Work over 30 Months’ Salary Arrears
Kakata, Margibi County – Angry health workers of the government-run C. H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, Margibi County on Monday barricaded the main gate to the hospital to protest against the government’s inability to pay their outstanding 30 months’ salary arrears.
By Yawah Y. Jaivey, Contributor
The protest comes as the county recorded over 256 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of July 17, 2021.
The over 40 health workers who went on strike cited unpaid salaries for months, calling it “no pay, no work”.
The strike turned into protest amid the ongoing worst of COVID-19 situation in Liberia as the total number of confirmed positive cases rose to 5, 396 with over 148 deaths as of July 17, 2021.
Liberia is one of the worst-hit countries in Africa and the country’s medical infrastructure is currently under pressure.
The strike disrupted patient care as health workers held placards and raised slogans on the hospital’s compound, demanding their due salaries. The protest also led the hospital’s Emergency Room (ER) male and female wards and Out Patient Department (OPD) deserted, leaving patients on the wards at the mercy of God.
Displaying placards with various inscriptions such as “President George Weah, we voted you, please let your government pay our arrears” and “We want our pay to feed and pay our children’s tuitions”, health workers said they are disappointed in a government that won the 2017 presidential elections on the mantra of ‘better health care delivery to the suffering masses’.
“We are risking our lives for humanity in this pandemic. Payment of salaries is our basic right and delays cannot keep happening,” said Mayango C. Jallah, spokesman of the protesting health workers.
Jallah decried the plight of the health workers, alleging that the government had not paid them their salaries for 30 months.
“The government has been making empty promises to us. We beg the leaders of the county to end this hardship. We will continue with the strike if nothing urgent is done to clear the arrears.”
“From time to time, our children are sent out from school over unpaid school fees. We cannot pick our bills,” he said.
He said it was disheartening and frustrating for government to be owing health workers for a protracted period without a remedy despite the many appeals to authorities.
“We have nurses, dispensers, cleaners and nurse aides who have volunteered and sacrificed for years without being employed. So, we are demanding for our employment status” Jallah said.
Efforts made to speak with heads of the hospital were unsuccessful as they could not pick calls made to him up to press time.
However, calm returned to the hospital following the intervention of Margibi County superintendent, Jerry Varnie, who is also the chairperson of the Margibi County Health Team Board.
The aggrieved health workers agreed to discontinue their protest and return to work on the ground that three of their 30 months’ arrears owed them be paid this week.
With protests being a recurring issue since the outbreak started in Liberia, many lawmakers have asked the government to take measures, warning of the dangers of having “dissatisfied soldiers in the war against the pandemic.”