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Health professionals return to work

4
  • as they strike deal with govt on their demands

Limpho Sello

HEALTH professionals on Friday abandoned their nationwide strike and returned to work.

They resumed their duties after reaching a compromise deal with the government which will see them receiving Covid-19 risk allowances and personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from the deadly virus.

The health workers have coalesced under the banner of the Coalition of Health Professionals. The Coalition includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists and nursing assistants. They went on strike on 13 July 2020 to protest the government’s failure to address their demands for Covid-19 risk allowances and PPE.

They had demanded risk allowances of M7000 per worker for six months. Alternatively, they demanded risk allowances of M3000 per worker and tax holidays to increase their disposable real incomes.

Repeated efforts to reach a deal broke down during last week’s talks as the government insisted it could not meet the workers’ demands. The workers eventually settled for the government’s offer ranging from M2000 to M3500 per month depending on the position of the employee and their work station.

Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu on Friday told journalists that professionals employed at the Covid-19 isolation centres have a higher risk of contracting the virus and would therefore be paid the highest amount of M3500 each per month.

Mr Mokhothu said health workers employed at government and church-owned hospitals would be paid M3000 and support staff at all hospitals will receive M2000 each.

He said the government had purchased some PPE and had started distributing it among the workers on Thursday. He said they expected to receive another batch next week.

Speaking at the same press conference, Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo said M80 million had been budgeted for the workers’ risk allowances for the period May to October 2020.

It was initially envisaged that the Covid-19 crisis would have been contained by October 2020 hence the decision to pay the risk allowances up to that month. Mr Maqelepo said they would have to source an additional budget should it become necessary to extend the payments beyond October. Given that Covid-19 cases are beginning to shoot up exponentially, it is most likely that the virus will not have been contained by October. Therefore, the payments may have to be extended.

“The allowances are being paid from May because that is when Lesotho recorded its first Covid-19 case,” Mr Maqelepo said. Lesotho recorded its first Covid-19 case on 13 May 2020. The infections now stand at 419 and nine deaths. (See story above).

The Coalition’s deputy spokesperson, Mojakisane Ramafikeng, took the opportunity to apologise to the public for the strike which had deprived patients of much needed health services.

Dr Ramafikeng, however, said the job action was necessary to protect both health workers and the public from the deadly virus.

“Our intention was not to harm you but we had to do what we did so that you can get services in a conducive environment with minimal threats of getting infected by Covid-19,” Dr Ramafikeng said.

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