Thursday, January 27, 2022

Nurses and Midwives Embark on Industrial Action

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By Kebba Secka

Mariama Sanyang and Ebou Sowe, two patients at Fajikunda Health Centre, have expressed their astonishment to this paper regarding the sit-down strike embarked upon by the nurses and midwives association of the Gambia.

They revealed this to the reporter during a visit to Faji Kunda Major Health Centre within the Kanifing Municipality. The reporter met Sanyang and Sowe at the health facility.

‘’I never know that they were on strike but this is not safe. Ah! This is serious,’’ Ebou, who looked surprised, told this reporter.

The visit to Fajikunda and Bundung Maternal and Children Hospital came following a declaration by members of the nurses and midwife’s association to embark on a sit-down strike effective September 1st. At Fajikunda, the health facility was observed to be lonely compared to its normal duty operations. The staff of the Pediatric and Labour wards of the same facility was excluded from the strike as one Dr Sanyang and other Cuban doctors were seen attending to patients. Other wards within the facility could be seen solitary while nurses seated away from the wards in small groups. The officer in Charge of Faji Kunda Health Centre, Ramatoulie Cham when approached in her office, confirmed industrial action was going on in her facility, but declined to comment further while permitting the journalist to go around and assess the situation. The Medical Research Council’s (MRC) section at Fajiknda Health Centre and the Public Health Department in the same facility were found to be busy as officers were attending to patients and recording data for birth certificate.

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 An anonymous public health officer described the health sector as a chain work, where the ineffectiveness of one department will affect the rest of the staff.He called on the authorities to immediately address the problem because health cannot be compromised and it is everybody’s business.

Elsewhere at Bundung Hospital, few nurses and some Gambian and Cuban doctors could be seen entering neonatal ward, GTbank named Paediatric ward and Accident and Emergency ward attending patients. Other wards like the out-patient’s department were observed to be empty at the time of visiting. Dr. Kebba Manneh, the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital confirmed the strike was going on in the hospital while opining that money should not supersede saving lives. ‘’Although, I don’t want to talk much about this, but I know it is unfortunate and it should be resolved. They (government) have started paying their allowances and it has to undergo some processes before all of them receive their monies. I only hope it will be resolved,’’ he stated.

Alhagie Touray, a parent who escorted his child to the same hospital complained about he observed at the hospital. He said his child’s ailment includes fever but they were told ‘there is no work’.

‘’I’m going back home, they said ‘there is no work’ but they should not do that,’’ he opined. Asked whether he knew the demand of the strikers, he answered in the negative.     

Gambia’s Ministry of Health announced in a press release on Wednesday 31st August, 2021 that ‘’the payment of the approved allowances for nurses by the Ministry of Health has already started and is in progress. The Central Bank has been posting the payments to individual staff bank’s accounts in which some nurses have already confirmed receiving their payments, the Ministry said.

“The hospitals submitted their list only yesterday (30th August 2021) and are being processed for immediate payment. The Ministry of Health therefore sees no reason for the nurses to go on strike.’’

Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh was quoted on Tuesday as saying: ‘’ The threat by nurses to go on strike on 1st September 2021 is unfortunate.’’ The strike has started and has affected patients who would have been attended to by the striking health officers across the country.

‘’Executive Committee of the National Association of Gambian Nurses and Midwives (NAGaNM) also issued a press release saying like a response to the release of its ministry indicating among others: ‘’After thorough analysis of the payments made by the Ministry of Health, the National Executive Committee arrived at the obvious conclusion that Ministry’s decision to pay a handful of nurses was targeted to halt the sit-down strike rather than address the entire situation. Having had more than 100 days to honor the agreement brokered at the State’s House with SG and Head of Civil Services, Ministry of Health has no genuine excuse for not meeting the agreed deadline for payments to be disbursed. From 11th May – 31st August, 2021 was enough time if it really mattered to them,’’ adding that the sit-down strike will be in two phases.

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