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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Row over new allowances for doctors, PhD holders

By Tabora Bojang

The Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers in collaboration with the National Pharmacy Staff Association have petitioned the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service to immediately suspend the recent increment of allowances to doctors and PhD holders serving in the Ministry of Health.

The increment was announced last month by the health minister, following approval by Cabinet reportedly “to bring in efficiency and synergy in the incentive packages within the health sector”.

However, in their reaction shared with The Standard, the Association said it is “discriminatory to make a controversial preposition” of increasing the allowances for only a few “without due consideration to other highly skilled medical and health professionals serving the same government institution.

“The defense of allowances made by the Minister of Health for himself and close associates violates the code of conduct for Civil Servants and we strongly recommend for your office to take appropriate action by investigating the circumstances behind the tabling of this controversial proposal in Cabinet without truly vetting,” the petition signed by secretary generals of the associations Musa Jallow and Momodou Samba stated.

It further charged that the move is “unfair to the hard-working directors, program managers, program officers, special skills technicians, health facility staff, midwives and front liners” who are providing essential services under unfavorable conditions. 

“Mr. Secretary General, we are very much aware that the PMO turned down a proposal to increase allowances for healthcare workers in the hard-to-reach areas during the manpower budget bilateral in 2020. It was made abundantly clear that they are conducting an allowance study and for this reason they cannot accept any proposal for allowance increment for all staff irrespective of cadre and position. Therefore, how did the minister’s proposal pass the PMO, Cabinet subcommittee and Ministry of Finance?  The unjustifiable move endorsed by Cabinet without due consideration of the possible repercussions of the decision may cause a great instability in the Ministry,” it warned.

“It is important to note that working for the civil service is a choice which many competent individuals, doctors, public health officers, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and nurses have made for many years without requesting an allowance increment. This one is shocking and disappointing because the minister stood up in parliament and vowed to work? We think the minister should have been pushing for the appointment of nearly 100 men and women volunteers in our health facilities who come to work daily without pay for years and the ministry is very much aware of the situation.”

The Associations further urged the secretary general to execute the following demands; reverse the decision, urgently investigate the victimisation of public health officers, initiate a review for allowance increment for all cadres in the ministry and use the allowance to initiate the appointment of health laborers, watchmen and orderlies some of who are volunteers for over 2 years without salary.

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