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Liberia: Pregnant Women, Baby Mothers Join Health Workers Protest

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PAYNESVILLE – Distressed patients including pregnant women and baby mothers early Monday morning staged a protest at the Duport Road Health Center to claim the government’s attention to address the plight of health workers.

They setup roadblocks on the back road connecting Duport Road to the commercial hub of Redlight, disrupting the free flow of traffic.

Speaking to FrontPage Africa, the protesters explained that they had gone for medical treatment and routine check-up but were told that workers including nurses have laid down their tools in demand of salaries and arrears.

The patients said despite their condition, they are in solidarity with the health workers.

“I am worried about my situation because I’m eight months old pregnant. But to be frank, the health workers are not being treated fairly. So we all agreed to gather here and support them for the government to see reasons to respond to thier needs,” said Fatu Sherriff.

Fatu Dennis, a baby mother added: “My child is not well. This is where my family usually come for treatment because of the low fees. Before I go find another place to take him, I want to stand with the rest of the people to tell the government to pay the workers because in the end we are the ones that suffer. These are some of the reasons hospitals and clinics are lack of drugs. Because if you supply the drugs and can’t pay the manager of the drug, you are simply telling the managers to take the drugs and sell it to pay himself. Then we who are the patients, we end up suffering.”

The unprecedented event has already drawn the attention of officials. Representative Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis of Montserrado County District #4 (whose constituency the health Center is situated) visited the center and held a brief discussion with staff of the facility including the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the center. She was told that the hospital is only open for emergency cases.

The OIC, a licensed Nurse, who refused to talk with the press informed the lawmaker that she makes less than US$250, and “that money has not been coming regularly.”

Rep. Dennis noted that House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has been notified of the situation and the leadership of the Legislature will engage the Executive to address the situation.

When quizzed whether the solution include paying the health workers thier arrears and salary, she retorted: “I, myself have not taken pay for three months.”

The Executive Officers of the National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia, representing over 11,000 health workers have earlier threatened to lay down their tools in demand of salary payment and increment.

They, among other things are calling on the government to pay thier arrears for the months of July and August 2019 and increase thier salaries going forward.

Meanehile, negotiations between the government and the union were well underway but broke down when Sober George, a communication consultant at the Ministry of Health prematurely announced that the health workers have reached an agreement with the union to call off the planned strike action. This angered union executives and threatened to go on with the strike. They termed George statement as false and misleading and a show of insensitivity by the government to the plights of health workers.

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