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Health professionals threaten another strike

by Sunday Express
  • govt has until tomorrow to address their grievances

Limpho Sello

RESTIVE health workers have given the government until tomorrow to address their demands for Coronavirus (Covid-19) risk allowances and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to protect from the deadly virus. If their demands are not addressed by tomorrow, they will go on strike on Friday.

The workers have bandied together in the Coalition of Health Professionals. The coalition includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists and nursing assistants.

They first went on a go-slow strike at the beginning of April to protest the government’s failure to pay them risk allowances and provide PPEs.

They abandoned the job action less than a week later after then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s regime agreed to meet their demands.

But two months later, the government, now led by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, is yet to pay the risk allowances and provide enough PPEs.

The coalition’s spokesperson, Dr Mojakisane Ramafikeng, yesterday told the Sunday Express that they had written to the Health Ministry’s principal secretary, Khothatso Tšooana, informing him of their intention to strike on Friday if their grievances are not addressed by tomorrow.

Dr Ramafikeng said they had had no choice but strike to protect themselves as some of their members have been infected by Covid-19 due to the government’s failure to provide adequate PPEs.

“We have asked the Ministry of Health to respond to all our grievances by 10 July, failing which we will be forced to protect ourselves by withdrawing our services,” Dr Ramafikeng said.

Part of the coalition’s letter to Mr Tšooana states that “against the dedication that health workers have shown in the face of this tragic pandemic, it has come to our knowledge that health workers that were brought into the system to assist with the extra load caused by Covid-19 have not been paid and this is unacceptable”.

“The coalition therefore requests…a circular that indicates that public sector health workers will get tax holidays. This is requested by 6 July 2020. The coalition also requests a circular that indicates the modification of the Sick Leave Policy to cover quarantine and Covid-19 illness as days that will be paid for as if the worker was on duty.

“The coalition also demands the payment of all health workers- that is- nurses, environmental workers and any other cadres that were engaged for Covid-19. This has to be done immediately for the months of April to June 2020.

“…health workers in the public and private sectors will no longer expose themselves to dangerous situations and environments…without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and they will not go into a contaminated environment before it is decontaminated,” the coalition states in the letter signed by its chairperson Gertrude Mothibe.

Ms Mothibe states that the grievances were raised some months ago and now that Lesotho has recorded Covid-19 cases (73 by yesterday), their concerns have to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

The coalition will stay hopeful for positive outcomes only until 10 July 2020.

“Otherwise, for all intents and purposes health workers in both public and private sectors need to protect themselves, their families and their communities by removing themselves from the source of the (Covid-19) risk. In full respect of their professional duties, they will protect Basotho by refraining from knowingly being the source of Covid-19 infections.”

Mr Tšooana confirmed receiving the coalition’s letter, saying they were working tirelessly to address the workers’ concerns.

However, he could not say if they would meet the deadline. He only said they would continue working closely with the coalition and hoped they would not withdraw their services.

The situation is problematic in that the health workers’ services are urgently needed now that the Covid-19 cases are increasing exponentially. Yet they cannot operate without PPEs as they will not only expose themselves but the public as well to the deadly virus.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper. Published every Sunday.

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