At least forty (44) clinics are being canceled nationwide following the ongoing strike action initiated by the Association of Public Health and Environmental Officers of the Gambia (APHEOG) to protest unanswered demands over allowance increment.
On Monday the umbrella body of all public and environmental officers of the Gambia threatened to invoke strike action if the Ministry of Health failed to approve their call for an increment of allowances latest Tuesday, April 5th, 2022 but their demands were not fulfilled by the deadline, sending the entire public health fraternity into nationwide lockdown on all essential public health services.
The strike came in the wake of the Gambia government’s approval of allowance increments for doctors and nurses, a rare development that excluded public and environmental officers according to APHEOG.
The increment of allowances for nurses and doctors saw the Minister of Health Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh bagging monthly earnings of one hundred and fifteen thousand dalasis (D115, 000) as public and environmental health officers struggle for a fair share of the new and improved stipends.
Shiekh Omar Sillah, one of the public health officers confirmed that there was a meeting between Health ministry officials and the association attended by the Health Minister, Permanent Secretaries, Directors, and senior health officials but no breakthrough was achieved.
Mr. Sillah said Public Health and Environmental Officers will continue their strike action as the matter remains unsolved.
The impromptu sit-down which started on Wednesday will vastly affect essential health services across the country as public health workers move to extend the strike action to Thursday, April 7th, 2022.
“The strike action continues tomorrow because we did not come to terms with the Minister and his team. We are demanding full approval, otherwise, we will extend the lockdown until our demands are fully met,” Shiekh Omar Sillah, told the TAT reporter in Banjul.
He confirmed that forty-four (44) clinics were canceled nationwide resulting in service breaks affecting thousands of Gambian children needing vaccination doses, adding that the sit-down has also affected seven (7) border posts including the airport.
Sillah further revealed that the implications of the services lockdown at the nation’s border post saw ten (10) inbound flights arriving with hundreds of passengers leaving the airport without any test or surveillance conducted on their health status, arguing that some travelers may have entered the country with infectious diseases without notice.
He said the lockdown will also affect travelers seeking vaccination and slow down Covid-19 responses, adding that disease surveillance and monitoring will not be possible under the prevailing situation.
“Imagine one thousand three hundred and forty-two (1,342) travelers entering through Amdalai border post alone without any form of health tests. Of course, some may have come with infectious diseases without notice,” He added.
A senior official at the ministry of health who prefers anonymity said the government should do more to immediately end the crisis, arguing that the provision of public and environmental services is a key component of quality health service delivery.
He observed that in order to end the continuous wrangling in the health sector, the government should consider separating public health from general health services, a model that has proven successful in other African countries providing effective health services to their citizens.