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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Travellers stranded as health workers strike

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By Tabora Bojang

The ongoing industrial action by public and environmental health workers continues to disrupt services across key areas of the health sector in the country.

The public health workers under the banner of the Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers (APEHOG) downed their tools Monday afternoon as they deserted their respective posts in protest over allowance issues.

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The strike continues to date despite several rounds of talks between the workers and the Ministry of Health.

The Standard visited the National Public Health Laboratory in Kotu and found the PCR unit non-operational as there were no sample collections, leading to a breakdown of services, which left many travelers stranded outside the gate for hours before service was partially restored Wednesday afternoon.

This sparked chaotic scenes as hundreds of travelers faced huge difficulties attempting to get their Covid-19 PCR test and certificates for international travel.

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During our Wednesday visit, the Director of Health Services Dr. Mustapha Bittaye was seen moving within the premises in a bid to calm tension.

Some nurses from the EFSTH were seen rushing into the premises to conduct sample collections and processing travelers amid a void left by the aggrieved workers.

“We are trying to see how to solve it and work with them. We are hopeful that it should be sorted out soon. We have some requests and demands which we are looking at as a government. There is a lot of work done about it and we have updated them on how far we have gone,” Dr. Bittaye told The Standard.

A traveler Lamin Fofana, a Gambian resident in the United States, told The Standard that he is worried about missing his flight back to the US after spending several hours at the NPHL premises without getting attention.

“I have been here since in the morning and I have not been tested. In fact, nobody came out to talk to us. We are just in limbo because I know the risks that I will face if I have to miss the flight. It will cost me about $2000,” he said.

Fofana, who worked for the former RVTH before leaving for the US, described the Gambia’s health sector as ‘ailing.’

Meanwhile, services were running smooth yesterday as we visited the NPHL with two female nurses at work.

The vice president of the striking health workers’ association, Musa Nget reiterated that they will continue to strike until their demands over allowances are met.

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