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Suspended health workers apologise but are still not recalled

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By Tabora Bojang

The Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers have complied with a demand by Health Minister Dr Lamin Samateh to apologise to get their suspension lifted.

About 371 public health officers are suspended for two months without pay for failing to return to work after a long period of unauthorised absence as they embarked on a strike over pay.

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Concerned with this suspension which raises a spectrum of disruptions to services across public spots and public health facilities, the National Assembly Select Committee on health invited members of the Association for discussions as it probes into the strike.

The committee recently completed its tour of health facilities affirming that services have been paralysed. The president of the Association, Nuha Fofana informed lawmakers that following the suspension of over 300 members by the PMO, they instituted a task force to engage the authorities over the matter because they consider the ‘extreme step’ detrimental to the country’s struggling health care system. “The task force met with the Health Minister [Dr. Samateh] to put to him the implications that the [two months] suspension can lead to, citing that Covid-19 is ongoing and still on the increase but we were told by the Minister that for the Ministry to consider talking to the Personnel Management Office to rescind the suspension, it will require a letter of apology from the executive members, because according to them, they were not very happy with some of the words or sentences we used in our letters,” Fofana told NAMs.

“In fact, we wrote that letter and it was submitted to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and copied to the chairman of the Public Service Commission and other stakeholders. That letter was written but from then on, we did not receive any other news and no other step has been taken as far as our suspension is concerned,” Fofana said.

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Momodou Keita, an executive member of the association, denied that they insulted or intimidated anybody in their letter.

“We apologised not because we have offended the Ministry in any way. We deem it necessary to write an apology letter because we were assured that if this letter was written the suspension was going to be rescinded. So, for the interest of 371 officers who are to go for two months without salary, an apology letter would not be too much and cannot be compared to the livelihoods of all those officers and their families. But since writing the letter, we have not heard any response,” Keita told lawmakers.

The Chairman of the Health Committee of the National Assembly, Amadou Camara, member for Nianija, described it as unfortunate to learn that the process was marred by failures and breaking of promises leading to the ongoing problems.

“As an oversight body over the Ministry of Health, we have seen that services are affected here and there and as people’s representatives, we deem it necessary and fitting to hear from you and then we pave a way forward and see how we best address this problem.” Camara added that his committee will also invite the Ministry of Health to get their side of the story in its tomorrow’s sittings. “When issues get out of hand and affect the people we represent, it obliges us to take up the matter and that is what we are doing,” Camara said.

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