Liberia Medical and Dental Association Sends Out Caveat to Government

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Monrovia- Medical doctors in Liberia have reechoed their threat to shut down all medical facilities within the country while giving the government 48 hours to respond to their demands.

Last week, the doctors gave the government a 72-hour ultimatum to reinstate 46 doctors it recently classified as ghosts and were deleted from the payroll. The doctors are also demanding an increment in salary and other benefits.

The doctors have described as “unfair to the protection of life” for names of those forming part of the limited numbers of doctors in the country to be removed from payroll without verification.

According to a document in possession of FrontPageAfrica, they are recommending that the list of doctors on the Ministry of Health ‘Ghost List’ be sent to the LMDA for verification by affected doctors, while all doctors affected be reinstated.

The doctors’ earlier ultimatum expired on Sunday, May 13 at 12:00 midnight.

They then began a go-slow action on Monday, May 14, following a meeting that ended in deadlock.

On Tuesday, the aggrieved doctors resolved to relax their protest action following interventions from the Ministry of Health and the Legislature.

“The LMDA suspends its go-slow action within 48 hours beginning May 16, 2018 and failure on the part of government of Liberia herein represented to adhere to the counts stated, the LMDA will revert to its go-slow action,” said Jonathan Hart, Secretary General of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association.

LMDA noted that the two days protest was also against the removal of 104 health workers names from the government payroll.

The doctors and officials from the health sectors on Tuesday concluded a meeting that sought to find common ground and end the go-slow actions.

The meeting brought together officials of the LMDA, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, House Committee Chair and Co-chair on Health, Representatives Saah Joseph and Pharm Joseph Somwarbi and a member of the committee, Representative Byron Zahnwea. They all affixed their signature to the resolution, assuring that it would be implemented.

Later, the doctors under the banner, Liberia Medical and Dental Association, (LMDA) in a press conference noted that their strike action would be relaxed for 48 hours only if government adheres to recommendations outlined in the resolution.

Addressing the media Tuesday at the LMDA Office in Monrovia, Dr. Hart noted that an agreement has been reached on signing a document between the National Legislature, Ministry of Health and the LMDA in fully implementing recommendations put forth.

“After all the formalities, we agreed that a document will be signed between the Legislature, the Ministry and the Association committing every party to the full implementations of these demands,” he said.

The members of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association have in the same way complained that they are earning limited salaries without any benefits while some junior officials in government are earning far above them.

Upon taking office, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah embarked on the cleaning of ‘ghost names’ from government payroll upon the request of Dr. Peter Coleman, Senate Committee Chair on Health.

During the official taking over ceremony of Dr. Jallah, Senator Coleman complained that there were too many ghost names on the ministry’s payroll, emphasizing the need to be cleared.

At the same time, the aggrieved doctors want the Ministry of Health makes full payment of arrears of doctors placed on the ‘Ghost List’ including May salaries.

According to Dr. Hart, these affected doctors have not received their salaries since April 2018.

Dr. Hart quotes the document as saying “verification and placement of 104 Medical Doctors, who have been working for the Ministry of Health since 2016 but not on the Liberian dollars payroll should be adjusted as of July 2018.”

“That the proposed salary increment of doctors be included in the next budget year 2018/2019 and That the Ministry of Health ensure the upgrading of all government health facilities in the Republic of Liberia.”

According to Hart, LMDA would be left with no alternative but to shut down all medical facilities in Liberia if the government does not obey their signatures attached to the resolution.

At the same time, the LMDA Secretary-General believes it would be important if doctors’ salaries are increased from a minimum of US$600.00 to US$1,000.00 and above.

“They are receiving US$600.00 now; we say no, as of July 1st, the minimum salary for medical graduates should be US$1000.00. When you get your license, the minimum should be US$3,000.000, when you become a resident, US$4,000, Junior Consultant, US$5,000 it’s simple. The government can do that, it’s not huge money,” Dr. Hart said.

However, Dr. Jallah has confirmed that the doctors’ concerns are important but attributed it to the past leadership refusal to address them.

Speaking with FrontPage Africa Tuesday, Dr. Jallah noted that the government through the Ministry of Health is seriously concerned about the ongoing situation faced by aggrieved doctors and will comply with the deadlines put forth by them.

“Well, the doctors have genuine issues but these issues came from the past that we inherited but we are trying to straighten it up because they are important parts of the healthcare system,” Dr. Jallah stated.

“So, we have listened to their concern and we have all come up with a conclusion that we will look into their issues. There are some deadlines set that we will comply with and they too will comply to return to work.”

The Liberian Health Minister further clarifies that the issues of ghost names have been addressed by the Ministry of Health, attributing the delay in salary payment to sorting out of individuals on dual currency component.

Meanwhile, House Standing Committee Chair on Health, Representative Saah Joseph has lauded the LMDA for relaxing their protest and providing government the opportunity to discuss with them.

Representative Joseph said the House committee will make additional moves to ensure the Ministry of Finance swiftly addresses the salary issues of aggrieved doctors.

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