Doctors Threaten Strike Action


Junior doctors aggrieved over what they consider as deplorable salaries and poor work conditions have thrown the gauntlet at a ‘New Direction’ government hard pressed for cash by demanding that the Ministry of Finance accedes to their demand for a 1000% salary and allowances increase; amongst other demands.

To show that they mean business, Junior Doctors down tools in all government hospitals on Tuesday November 3rd 2018.

A defensive Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa has responded by calling on the Junior Doctors to show understanding of the dire economic situation prevailing in the country, whilst appealing to their sense of patriotism and begged them to suspend their strike action whilst negotiations continue within the next ten days.

Whilst the stalemate lasts, the combative Junior Doctors put on hold on Wednesday a negotiation meeting with the Minister of Finance to consult with their comrades in the profession that include the Medical and Dental Association, Young Pharmacy Group, Pharmacy Society and Clinical Health Officers.

The Coalition after hanging heads came out with a strongly worded statement expressing their disappointment that they have held futile engagements with the Minister of Health and Sanitation over the past one month and are closely monitoring the Junior Doctors action to see if the Government will address the concerns documented by the Junior Doctors for all health workers. Failure by the government to come up with a satisfactory response, the coalition will within 72 hours which expires at 2400hrs on Thursday down tools until all concerns are addressed.

Explaining the genesis of the health workers strike, Minister J.J. Saffa moaned that it predates their government; as the demands were first made in 2015. These demands include the construction of additional hospital spaces, an infectious disease center, provision of equipment and supplies, post-graduate training, medical insurance for the poor and indigent and most troubling for the government, 1000% salary and allowances increase.

Minister Saffa said in November this year, his ministry was approached by the Minister of Health on demands initiated by the Junior Doctors Association. Unfortunately, he said, his ministry could not take any action as he had already presented the 2019 budget to Parliament.

Notwithstanding that, he said the government had in the 2018 supplementary budget granted moderate 5% and 10% salary and allowance increments for all grades of public sector workers, including health workers. He added that plans are afoot to recruit 4000 new health workers as well as to immediately absorb all graduate health workers. With regards the junior doctors demands, Minister Saffa said government has agreed to pay risk, on-call and outside Freetown location allowances to clinical heath workers.

With regards salaries and wages generally in the country, Minister Saffa said the government has set up a salary and wages commission to revise and harmonize public sector pays including health workers. It is in this light that Minister Saffa appeals to the health workers to suspend their strike, pending negotiations.