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Sierra Leone Health Service Workers Union Ends 6th Quinqeunial Delegates Conference

Sierra Leone Health Service Workers Union Ends 6th Quinqeunial Delegates Conference

The Sierra Leone Health Services Workers Union (SLHSWU) has ended 6th Quinqeunial delegates’ conference at P. M. O’s office, Cline Town, Freetown Saturday December 8th, 2018 on the theme “Without our brain and muscle not a single wheel could turn”.

In his welcome address, the President of SLEHSWU, Abdul Mannette Kamara commended members of the union for their enduring and commitment in promoting the health care delivery system of our nation and expressed hope that their presence at the conference will provide the opportunity to share vital information, experiences and exchange of knowledge on issues affecting health care workers.

He said available statistics point to the fact that our nation’s health system is still inadequate and stressed that the conditions under which health providers are working are of a major concern to the union. The President maintained that health workers and health professionals in Sierra Leone are exposed to a complex variety of health and safety hazards on a daily basis, yet he said new health infrastructural developments under construction still lack adequate health and safety, occupational and environmental protection for health providers and users.

“Health care providers are also faced with the consequences of hepatitis and other forms of hazards”, he told audience and called on health authorities to ensure that the work place is safe for health workers to work. He continued that the challenge for proper waste management in the municipalities is yet another disturbing factor and if not seriously tackled will forever render our collective efforts to improve the health care status of Sierra Leoneans a mirage.

In recent times, Mr. Kamara said there has been more emphasis on curative health rather than preventive health and mentioned that this has brought in its wake the recurrence of preventable and non-communicable diseases such as hepatitis, diabetes and hypertensions among others.

He discussed that the inadequate number of trained health personnel are being further depleted at an alarming rate due to the lack of improved remuneration, poor working environment, poor conditions and the lack of concern for equity in the distribution of the national cake for health care providers in the country and in the sub-region as a whole.

Delivering keynote address, Dr. Alieu Wurrie who is the Director of Primary Health Care talked about the effort Government has been doing to address welfare of health workers and he appreciated SLESHWU for looking themselves as employers of MOHS because of their vision and wealth of experience. He appreciated the President for Nurses Association, Sennessie Magao for disassociated themselves from the strike actions mounted by junior doctors because they have been pivotal in the negotiation meetings which he said were held at the Ministry of Finance.

Dr. Wurie disclosed that the Minister of Health, Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie is working to establish a committee under the human resource that would look at welfare of health workers and encouraged health workers to always dialogue and avoid confrontation. He affirmed that the issue of salary increase is not only for doctors but for all health workers and promised that the ministry will increase both risk and professional allowances. “We will also look at remote allowance for doctors who are sent to work in remote areas”, he said they organized an on the spot visit last October at Connaught Hospital where they discovered that 70% of nurses working at night are volunteers and proffered that, that  this why the Minister is very serious about recruitment and discussed about the ministry’s plan to recruit three thousand health workers to add to the number of nurses.

The Secretary General for SLESHWU, Ansu Rashid Kalokoh the 6th Quinqeunial delegates conference was graced by 83 delegates and 14 independent observers said the basic premise of this union is to maintain peace, security and stability and entrenched good governance, improve the economy, co-operate and respect for democratic principles, enhance human rights, follow due process, responsive leadership, liberty and freedom of individuals and as well as for growth, prosperity and sustained resilience behind the broad aim and objectives of this union.

“My administration recognized that a critical dimension of this union is the urgent need to unite every member in practical and sustainable ways”, he told listeners and reiterated that theme was not only apt but accentuates the responsibility and role of the union to better position itself to rise up against Neo-liberal challenges facing health workers in the world over and Sierra Leone in particular.

He discussed that the importance of health workers has no limitation as they compromise their dignity, ignore their pride and sacrifice their lives by being exposed to many diseases. He described a healthy worker as a productive worker and recalled that during the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone there was loss of generation, loss of souls wallowing in a cesspool of physical and psychological torment adding, a large number of health workers in all cadres paid their lives in trying to rescue others.

In an attempt to diffuse these horrible deeds to our clients, Mr. Kalokoh said meetings were held with the New Direction Government represented by the Minister, Deputy and Senior Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to illicit ways to prevent the reoccurrence of what the Ebola did to health workers, particularly when there are clear signs of hepatitis available in our midst.

He encouraged the Government of President Julius Maada Bio to give priority to preventing health workers who are only there to save lives and not to pay their lives.

“It must be noted that the union, Nurses Association and all other associations operating under MOHS have a responsibility to ensure that their members are properly catered for or else posterity would one day hold them to accountable”, he concluded.

The President for Sierra Leone Labor Congress (SLLC), Dennis Wright described the occasion as a red letter day for SLESHWU and maintained that the constitution of the union mandated members to hold delegate conference every five years. He expressed happiness over for the peace and togetherness which medical people have been exhibited over the years. He condemned political interference because according to him, the constitution did not talk about any political parties but talked about trade unions.

President, Nurses Association, Sennessie Magao deliberated that the association will continue to work and support SLESHWU and any other union that supports and promotes health workers in the country and spoke about the good relationship they have been enjoying with SLESHWU. He advised that the decision they were going to take in the delegate conference will tell the outcome of the institution for the next five years. He discussed that nurses and pharmacists never had a strike action because, he said they think it’s good enough for them to see reasons with authority and accepted the fact that there are numerous challenges before advising delegates to vote wisely for the progress of the union.

By Abdulai Mento Kamara

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