Ebola health workers go on strike in Sierra Leone
More than 400 health workers in only Ebola treatment clinic in southern Sierra Leone have gone on strike over unpaid risk allowances promised by the government.
Nurses, cleaners, and porters at the clinic – which is located in Bandjuma, Bo district – walked out after the government failed to make risk allowances payments of an extra $100 a week since September. The government agreed to make the payments when the treatment center was established.
The clinic is run by Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), which pays the staff’s basic salaries. There are also a number of international staff at the center, but they are unable to keep it open on their own.
“If the strike action continues we will shut down the treatment center,” said Ewald Stars, emergency coordinator for MSF. Stars also called on the government to pay the staff as promised.
“An ambulance has just been turned away with a patient because the workers cannot go into the clinic if allowances are not paid,” Mohamed Mbawah, a representative of the striking workers, told Reuters.
Although the clinic in Bandajuma only has 60 beds, it makes up one-fifth of the total number of Ebola beds available in Sierra Leone. Last week, the United Nations Ebola Response Mission (UNMEER) warned that Sierra Leone has just 288 of the 1,864 beds it needs to fight the deadly virus.
Sierra Leone, along with Guinea and Liberia, are struggling to deal with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. While Liberia has seen a slight drop in the number of new cases, Sierra Leona has recorded almost 300 new infections in the last three days.
Meanwhile, a nurse and his patient have become the second and third people to die from Ebola in neighboring Mali.
The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. The current outbreak is the worst ever recorded and has killed nearly 5,000 people since it was identified in March.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 13,240 confirmed, suspected, or probable cases in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has now risen to 5,147 from 14,068 cases the WHO announced Wednesday.