By Landing Ceesay
The National Association of Gambian Nurses & Midwives (NAGANM) has advised the government to honour the 31st August deadline for the payment of their allowances to avert the looming health care crisis in the country that would be blamed on the government.
The Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Gambia Nurses & Midwives (NAGANM), has confirmed that they are set to embark on an industrial action on 1st September, after government in a letter, informed them that their allowances might not be paid end of August as agreed; due to the work involved in the computation of the allowances in the payroll system at each level of the centre.
Sanna Darboe said when the strike begins, no health facilities, even emergency wards, would operate in the country, as it would be nationwide.
“We will be embarking on a sit down strike Wednesday, on the 1st of September 2021, because the government failed to honour our agreement of paying our allowances. We have an agreement with them [government] that they will start paying our allowances in August but we receive a letter from the Ministry of Health that they will be paying our allowance in September,” Mr Darboe stated.
This announcement by the nurses and midwives association is triggered by a letter from the Ministry of Health informing the health practitioners that payment of their allowances might delay beyond the agreed date due to the work involved in the computation of the allowances in the payroll system at each level of the centre.
“The Ministry of Health receives a letter from the office of the Secretary-General and Head of the civil service relating to nurses’ allowances payments. We will like to inform you that every effort is being made to complete all the necessary procedures and processes required for the payments of 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 centre. 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 the process,” the letter dated 24th August and signed by Lamin Dampha, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health to the association stated.
In response to the Ministry’s letter, NAGANM rejected its employer’s request for an extension of the deadline for the payment of the allowances.
“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 contemptuously and negligently in which this allowance issue was handled following the agreement reached in May,” the National Association of Gambia Nurses & Midwives to reply to the Ministry of Health stated.
The association finally advised the Health Ministry to avert looming health care crises in the country by honouring the 31st August agreement to pay their allowances.
“Finally, the National Executive Committee and the general membership of nurses and midwives wish to inform you that they are not taking or giving any new stance on this matter. The honourable membership of this noble profession wishes to further inform you that if your office fails to meet the stipulated date of this agreement, you will have to answer to the innocent Gambians whose health you have not valued enough. The Committee holds on to the agreements until August 31st, 2021. It hereby advises that you honour this agreement to avert the looming health care crises that all of you are predisposing The Gambia to,” NAGANM advised in the reply letter.
In May, after the association at a press conference announced that it would engage in an industrial action over allowances matter, the Secretary-General and Head of the Civil Service, following negotiations with them and other stakeholders requested the Ministry of Health to effect the payment of 3 category of allowances to the health care givers, effective August.
“Following intense negotiations with the executive of National Association of Gambia Nurses & Midwives [NAGANM] with invaluable support from your Ministry and in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs [MoFEA] over their demand for improved working conditions, the following have been agreed in relation to payment of allowances to nurses.
“Risk Allowance of D2, 000 per month for all nurses; On- Call Allowance as specified in the attached sheet; [and] Speciality Nurse Allowance as specified in the attached sheet.
“By a copy of this letter the Ministry of Health is requested to pay these allowances with effect from August 2021,” Noah Touray, the Secretary-General and Head of the Civil Service wrote to the Ministry of Health and copied NAGANM on 11th May, this year.
NAGANM alleged that they would not have been informed at the last minute, if the parties who were involved in the negotiations had taken them seriously.
“If all the parties involved in the negotiations had taken nurses and midwives seriously; they would not have waited until this eleventh hour to write to the association a letter that only proofs their incompetence, negligence, lack of integrity and lack of concern for nurses and the health care service users (innocent Gambians and residents of the Gambia),” the association alleged.
The association first proposed to embark on a sit-down strike in May, demanding for improved working conditions.
After negotiations led by the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service, the planned strike was postponed following an agreement that their allowances would be paid effective this month.
However, the recent missive to the association from the Ministry of Health has contradicted that. Thus, awoke the association’s desire to observe a sit-strike until their allowances are paid as per the agreement and request of the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service in a letter to the Health Ministry dated 11th May 2021.