MONROVIA, Montserrado – Doctors and dentists across the country are continuing their protest over payroll issues.
On Friday, May 11, the Liberia Medical and Dental Association and the Liberia Medical and Dental Council announced a 72-hour ultimatum to the government to pay over three months’ salaries and incentives for 40 interned doctors. They also demanded the reinstatement of 46 doctors whose names they say were mistakenly deleted from the payroll as ghost workers in a payroll cleansing exercise. The ultimatum began on Thursday, May 10, the doctors announced.
Dr. Jonathan Hart, secretary general of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association, who read the statement on behalf of the two groups, said more than 100 medical doctors are yet to be placed on the government’s payroll. He said about 40 interns have not been paid their incentives for three months.
“What is even more disgusting and annoying, was that while appealing to the doctors to hold on to faith and hope as we negotiate a suitable and peaceful solution, in March, [the] Health Ministry removed a significant number of doctors from both incentive and payroll and labeled them as ghosts,” Hart said.
Hart said the doctors have been actively working without their proper salary and incentives.
These actions of the government over the years and in recent times, according to Hart, led to a resolution passed and adopted in the LMDA’s second bi-monthly meeting held on April 28 in Nimba calling on the Health Ministry to immediately pay arrears and reinstate the doctors within 72 hours as of Thursday, May 10. The association also called on the ministry to ensure that their incentives and salaries were regularly paid no later than May 30.
The LMDA urged the public to brace themselves for the consequences of their protest, beginning Sunday, May 13.
In the wake of the doctors’ action, the government immediately called a meeting of stakeholders at the Health Ministry on May 14.
At the meeting, the government was represented by Samuel Tweah, minister of finance and development planning; Nathaniel McGill, minister of state for presidential affairs; and Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, the minister of health. Peter S. Coleman, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health also attended the meeting.
At the close of the meeting, Hart told The Bush Chicken via mobile phone that the ministers appealed to the doctors to end their protest and return to work.
However, he said no decision was made on whether the doctors would continue their protest because the meeting ended late.
“We are calling an emergency meeting of all doctors in the country tomorrow, May 15 at the John F. Kennedy Medical Compound at 11a.m.,” he added.
Hart emphasized that in the meeting, doctors will vote on whether to end or continue with their protest.
“These people cannot be trusted as the government has promised us and not lived up to its promises,” he said.
This is not the first time President George Weah’s government has been affected by a protest by health professionals. In March, students from the University of Liberia’s School of Pharmacy and the A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine stormed the grounds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in protest of stipends they said had been delayed by six months. That protest ended as the president instructed the finance minister to make available more than US$200,000 as payment of stipends for the students.
The Bush Chicken gathered that the current protest is affecting health facilities in counties such as Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Margibi.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah