Gambia – Sitdown Strike Looms Already Sick Health-Care System
On Monday, the Gambia Nurses and Midwives Association threatened a nationwide sit-down strike if the government of The Gambia fails to meet their demands on or before the 28th of April 2021. The disgruntled medical personnel demands increasing its membership work allowances and improved welfare for nurses and midwives.
In a press conference they staged in Banjul, the Gambian nurses and midwives recounted how they work under strenuous conditions and a risky environment, with inadequate protection from the government and the Ministry of Health.
The Public Relations Officer of the Nurses Association, Sanna Darboe, said the “Gambia Government officials do not care about our health system. When they (government officials) are sick, they have the money to go for overseas treatment. They leave us here because they don’t want to invest much in the heal care system“, Sanna said.
The Secretary-general of the National Nurses and Midwives Association, Ousman Touray, said his colleagues desperately waited for the government of the Gambia to show the goodwill it never pursues in addressing the nurses’ plight. Touray, however, warned that “If there is no gradual progress in what we see and hear from the government following actions, we feel that it’s just a way to keep us waiting with delay tactics.”
Therefore, the nurses and midwives asked for the increase in the allowance of uncalled nurses, which they say is currently D200 per month.
According to the angry health workers, the D200 allowance has remained stagnant for over a decade. They also demand that the government improves the welfare of every nurse and midwife, more capacity-building opportunities, and adequate supply of the essential types of protective equipment they need for work, like gloves and bedsheets for their patients.
The president of the National Nurses and Midwives Association, Yusupha Sanyang, recalled that nurses are the major component of the healthcare services delivery in the Gambia. However, he said, there is little motivation for them than other work sections of the government, according to him.
Explaining the harsh working conditions of the nurses and midwives in Gambian health facilities, Sanyang said some of his colleagues “Have work-related stress disorders, work-related injuries. When a nurse is tired, he can easily cause self-injuries and got infected with HIV or Hepatitis B. As we speak, not a single nurse in The Gambia can afford to buy drugs to treat hepatitis which means a nurse can injure himself, and it’s a sentence to death“.
“We have sent a series of correspondence and proposals. We held several meetings with the ministry of health, the Secretary-general, and the Personnel Management Office to address our demands and improve the predicament of nurses in The Gambia. However, our outcry has fallen on deaf ears. We are now giving the government an ultimatum on or before Saturday.”
Hours after the nurses and midwives press conference, the government of the Gambia issued a press release that says that “The Public Management Office has undertaken a review of the current pay and grading structure of the civil service to develop a new grade structure and pay scale.” The government says the draft report has been approved by the Vice-president and the Secretary-general Head of the Civil service. The government added that “some provisions of the proposed new grade structure and pay scale for civil servants are to be fine-tuned by the PMO.”
While the government blames the Coronavirus pandemic for the delay in the final stage of costing the new pay scale, it expects the PMO to submit its conclusions to the cabinet very soon.
It’s important to recall that the Personnel Management Office (PMO) and the Office of the Secretary-General and Head of the Civil Service validated the new grading and pay scale during a Virtual Retreat held on the 21st and 22nd September 2020. Since then, there is nothing new to raise the quasi inexistent purchasing power of Gambian Civil servants. Meanwhile, primary commodity prices continue rising every day.