IMMINENT STRIKE: HEALTH WORKERS TO BEGIN GO-SLOW OVER WAGES

Working in the Ebola Treatment Unit is a sacrifice health workers like Eric K. Jacobs is willing to make but their last straw of patience may have just been depleted due to false promises made to them by the government of Liberia in terms of salary and hazard pay.
“I work as a hygienist. As hygienists, we are there to spray, we are there to remove any expired bodies from the wards and we are responsible to clean the sick people,” says Jacobs.

But these days, Jacobs says the passion to work is depleted. “We are really discouraged. We risk our lives to do this work. Our government is supposed to encourage us is discouraging us; they don’t want to pay us. We signed a contract to be paid US$500, now they are telling us that they will give us US$300.”

Wearing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for prolonged hours in Ebola high risk wards brings a lot of discomfort, but taking it off can be even more dangerous than putting it on; let alone being attacked by a belligerent Ebola patient that sinks their nail into the suit and scratch you thereby direct contact, which is the way one can get infected with the deadly virus.

Jacobs, works at the World Health Organization-run Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Center in Monrovia and has seen firsthand how his colleagues have become infected with the deadly disease everyday while risking their lives to treat those infected with the Ebola virus.

GOL ‘Made a Fool’ of Nurses

“This job is risky; some of our colleagues have become infected and are currently in isolation,” he says. “One of our colleagues, just died from JFK, he was a hygienist. One of the patients scratched him, tore his PPE and that’s how he got infected. What will become of us?”

Baindu Massallay, also a hygienist at the Island Clinic ETU says the government has made a fool of health workers by assuring them that their salaries have been paid when the government has not done so. “They said our pay is in the bank and that we should check our various accounts, but we went and we didn’t see anything there,” she says.

“We paid transportation yesterday and went from bank to bank; for me, I’m with GTBank, I went there nothing, some people with Ecobank, they went there nothing. Why they must treat us like that? This place is supposed to be packed more than this, but go inside and see.”

25-50 ‘Dead Bodies’: Patients Abandoned

On Saturday, some health workers abandoned patients in the treatment unit and were seen loitering outside the center in their numbers. Some told journalists that they were waiting for the top brass in the government to leave their offices and volunteer to care for Ebola patients inside, but that of course was never to happen, yet it showed how angry they are.

“I want our government to know that our people are dying. Sometimes we have 25-50 dead bodies on the ward,” says Barbara W. Jackson, a health worker at the Island Clinic ETU. “They are not able to make the sacrifice, they only sit in their air-conditioned offices at the Ministry and we do the dirty work, yet they don’t want to pay us.”

An angry Jackson was walking out of the compound housing the treatment center when she spotted journalists and volunteered to express her grievances. “Yesterday our people refused to work in the afternoon. Dr. Atai Omoruto) talked to them, but they did not work, it was the night shift people who agreed to work,” she says. “I’m out here today because I have worked for 42 days; the government promised to put money in my account yesterday, I went to search my account and there was no money there.

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