As COVID-19 fight intensifies… Gov’t incentivizes health workers

The Government of Sierra Leone has through the Ministry of Finance agreed to demands put forward by healthcare workers in Sierra Leone for COVID-19 compensation package.

The Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMA) had put together a compensation package, which they urged the government to agree to for doctors alone.

The package includes, among other things, exemption of PAYE tax for a three month period, weekly COVID-19 allowance of Le1, 000,000 and 50% increase in risk allowance for same period.

After intense negotiations, the government agreed to most of the demands by the doctors with nurses and community healthcare officers, who are at the forefront of the fight also included.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government and the Sierra Leone Nurses Association (SLNA), Sierra Leone Association of Community Health Officers (SLACHO) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Sierra Leone was signed on Tuesday April 21, 2020.

The Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association chose not to show up for the signing even though they agreed to be present.

Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said government will provide 105% of the demands made by the medical personnel.

With the MoU in place, Doctors, Nurses, CHOs and Pharmacists working in treatment centers, isolation units, and laboratories will be entitled to weekly allowances of One Million Leones each for three months, commencing April 1, 2020 and subject to review as may be necessary, whiles cleaners and drivers will receive Le 500,000 with similar conditions.

Mr. Saffa stated that the weekly allowance of a million Leones is in line with the recommendation made by the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA).

In line with the demand by SLMDA, the Finance minister disclosed that healthcare workers will be provided with a cash risk allowance in lieu of their P.A.Y.E (Pay As You Earn) tax deductions for three (3) month, commencing April 1, 2020, subject to review.

“In addition to a life insurance policy encompassing payment to next-of-kin, Government shall provide free tuition and other forms of educational support for a maximum of three (3) children, up to 1st-degree level, for any healthcare worker who loses his/her life in the discharge of their duties in the combating and treatment of persons infected with COVID-19,” Saffa said.

According to the MoU, Government will also provide food compensation of Le 60,000 for staff in treatment centers, Isolation centers, and Laboratory for 84 days.

Health and Sanitation Minister, Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie said: “The Government is desirous to ensure that frontline health workers are provided with the required incentives to facilitate their efforts and activities in the treatment and care of persons with the disease.”

The representatives of the Sierra Leone Nurses Association (SLNA), Sierra Leone Association of Community Health Officers (SLACHO), and the Pharmaceutical Society of Sierra Leone commended the government for the motivation provided and expressed their commitment to the fight against COVID-19.

Secretary-General of SLNA, Mr. Haurace Nyandamoh, expressed frustration with regards to the attitude of SLMDA, noting that they (SLMDA) are pushing for a different MoU from what they agreed during the negotiation process.

"If the government goes ahead and sign another MoU that is different from what we have, we will talk to our membership to down tools. Nurses comprise about 75 percent of the healthcare workforce and our job is riskier at this period," he warned.

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