Nurses Disregard Gv’t Threats, Proceed with Planned Strike for Dignity
The tug of war between the nurses in the Public health facilities and the government of The Gambia continues. Despite the threats from the Ministry of Health, the National Association of Gambia Nurses and Midwives (NAGNM) has announced its resolve to proceed with its planned strike if the government of The Gambia does not meet its demands within three days.
Explaining the nurses’ determination, Ousman Touray, the Secretary-General of the association, told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday that nurses in The Gambia are not treated right, “the ministry of health does not respect us.”
And in response to the government’s threat of sacking any nurse compliant with the planned strike, the National Association of Gambia Nurses and Midwives warns it would paralyze the whole country’s health system with shut-down as its membership constitutes 85 percent of hospital employees.
The nurses’ planned sit-down strike from 2nd September will be in two phases and will continue until all nurses are paid.
On 2nd September, all departments will close except the Emergency Department, the Labor Ward, the Dialysis Unit, the ICU, the Neonatal Unit, and the Operating Theater.
Then “No nurse in The Gambia will report to work on 4th September,” Ousman Touray warned.
Deteriorated working Conditions
Mr. Touray said there are no single health facilities in the country without a nurse, yet their working conditions are appalling. “We are not protected from infections and assaults. We are overworked and underpaid.”
Ousman Touray revealed that a female nurse was assaulted in his presence at the ministry of health by a senior public official because the female nurse was asking for her monthly salary and her COVID-19 allowance last year.
He disclosed that a nurse working in the provincial Gambia is paid a D200 monthly allowance which he describes as ‘unfair and sad.’ “No justice for us, yet no equality and no equity for nurses in the health sector.”
In addition, Ousman Touray points to the impunity covering the ministry’s officials who assault nurses. “All the physical assaults cases that happen to nurses were reported to the police, and there was no justice to this day because the ministry of health never took any disciplinary action against the perpetrators.”
Touray further alleges that he was also assaulted at the Ministry of Health last year. But, according to him, even though the minister intervened, nothing was done about the matter. “Our matters mean nothing to them,” Ousman Touray stressed.
Remuneration of Gambian Nurses
Touray slammed the weak salary of Gambian nurses as opposed to other parts of Africa. For example, he said a nurse’s monthly wage in Senegal, Ghana, and Malawi could pay a nurse in the Gambia three times or more when they are all nurses equally doing the same job.
“Nursing in the Gambia is driven more by passion than money. The nurses ask for food on the table for their families and a roof over their heads, but they cannot achieve that because they live from check to check,” Touray said.
“We struggle every day without basic needs for ourselves and our families.”
He urges the government to meet the nurses’ demands. He adds that the ministry can solve the problem within three days if the government is serious about addressing the nurses’ working conditions.
The nurses association executive urged all nurses to respect the decision to go on strike announced today and the subsequent decisions to come after.