Sierra Leone doctors issue strike ultimatum amid Covid-19 fight

Thursday June 4 2020

A laboratory technician filling a syringe with a Covid-19 vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi.

This picture taken on May 23, 2020 shows a laboratory technician filling a syringe with a Covid-19 vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand at Chulalongkorn University in Saraburi. PHOTO | MLADEN ANTONOV | AFP 

Just two days after low level Covid-19 responders went on strike, medical doctors in Sierra Leone have issued a strike notice over non-payment of allowances and incentives.

The Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) on Wednesday issued the strike notice, with a 48-hour ultimatum, to the government to meet all terms of payment as contained in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in April or face a “massive disruption” of healthcare services.

“Allowances to healthcare workers at the very forefront in treatment and isolation centres are almost non-existent… the PAYE has been erratic and only paid to some,” the association said.

“If the situation is not resolved within 48 hours, it will lead to a massive disruption of healthcare services in Sierra Leone,” it added.

The doctors’ warning comes as a reaction to a statement issued by the government on Tuesday in response to the strike by the low level frontline workers, whose action paralysed the country’s Covid-19 response efforts.

The MoU signed on April 22 detailed the package and timeline to complete it. Part of it is refund of PAYE tax deducted from their monthly salaries.

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The medical workers had demanded risk allowances, among many incentives to facilitate their work on the pandemic.

In its statement on Tuesday, issued through the Ministry of Finance, the government said it had paid the tax refund and other risk allowances directly into the bank accounts of all frontline workers since May 29.

However, SLMDA described the statement as a “farce” and said it made a mockery of their situation.

As of Wednesday, Sierra Leone had recorded 909 Covid-19 cases.

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