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Nurses accuse gov’t of breaching agreement, threaten to stay at home

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia Nurses and Midwives Association has again threatened nationwide strike if the government fails to pay their allowances by the end of August.

In April, the disgruntled medical personnel demanded increment of allowances and improved welfare of its members.

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After weeks of negotiations, the government agreed to their demands and committed to pay them monthly risk allowance of D2, 000 effective last July. But this was later pushed to this August after the government said it was not able to meet the deadline.

According to the nurses, on 11th May, 2021, the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service authorised the Ministry of Finance to pay the allowances by this August.

However, in a letter addressed to the nurses’ association shared with The Standard yesterday, the government through the health ministry appealed to the nurses to wait until September. The letter, signed by the ministry of health PS, reads further:

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“The Ministry of Health is in receipt of a letter from the Office of the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service relating to nurses’ allowance payments.

We would like to inform you that every effort is being made to complete all the necessary procedures and processes for the payment of the approved allowances. However, the payments might be delayed because of the work involved in the computation of allowances in the payroll system at each level of the cadre.” It added that: “Consequently, the ministry will not be able to pay the allowances this August but assure you that your allowances will be included in the September salaries and will take into account August allowances. In view of the circumstances, the ministry is urging your membership to exercise a bit of patience to allow us to complete.”  

Nurses react

However, reacting to the ministry’s letter, the Nurses and Midwives’ Association which consists of over four thousand members, said it will not accept any further extension and that effective end of August, they will start a sit-down strike.

“Please be informed that your request for a grace period of an extra one month to pay these allowances has been rejected with immediate effect. The entire nursing fraternity is grossly disappointed in the contemptuous and negligent manner in which this allowance issue was handled following the agreement reached in May,” the association said.

Meanwhile, the nurses’ association spokesperson Sanna Darboe told The Standard yesterday that the negotiation between the association and the government ended last May and that the nurses are no more interested in any further negotiations.

“The government had promised to pay the allowances this month, but to our utmost surprise we received a letter from the health ministry informing us that they will only be able to pay the allowances in September. When we received the letter, we wrote back to inform them that we are not going to accept that proposal and that it is either they pay the allowances or else we will shut down the whole healthcare system,” Darboe said.

Darboe said the general nurses’ body “feel very disappointed” about the government’s failure to honor their own words.

“We cannot imagine how a government could disregard its own promise. We are going to completely shut down the healthcare system in this country and the Gambian people should hold the government accountable,” he warned.

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