By Ramatoulie Jawo
Hon Musa Badjie, National Assembly member for Tallinding, and a member of the select committee on health has asked the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health to state the reasons for the suspension of 371 Public and Environmental Health Officers; after failing to suspend doctors and nurses for embarking on a sit-down strike.
“The Doctors and nurses had been going on strikes in this country, but the Ministry of Health took steps to address their grievances without suspending them. Why would you suspend the public health officers for a similar offense?” the Tallinding NAM asked the Permanent Secretary during his appearance before the committee.
He expressed his displeasure about the suspension of the Public Health Officers earlier this month for embarking on a sit-down strike which the ministry described as “unauthorized absence” from work.
“Do you want to tell us that the public health officers are the least important ones in your system?” Badjie further asked.
He said the suspension should have been the last thing the ministry should take saying, “because suspending more than three hundred workers is affecting the health system of the country”.
The member of the committee said the suspension is really affecting health service delivery, which is not good for the health sector.
“We know your frustrations as a Ministry, because you are facing the burden as a Ministry. The number that is suspended is just too much which the ministry should not allow at this point in time,” he stressed.
In his response, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Mamadou Lamin Jaiteh called on the committee members to join the Ministry of Health to talk to the Personnel Management Officer (PMO) to see how they could rescind the suspension.
The Permanent Secretary Jaiteh said it was not the ministry’s desire to reach to this level.
“A lot of efforts have been done on the ministry’s side. We were making sure we understood each other to avoid such things from happening,” he said.
The Chairman of the committee, Amadou Camara said they would engage the PMO and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to look for a solution
The remarks were made on Monday during the National Assembly Health Committee’s discussion with the Ministry of Health on the suspension of the 371 Public and Environmental Health Officers for two months without pay.
The suspension was triggered by the industrial action the health officers embarked on from June to the beginning of this month that the government described as “authorized absence”.
The committee first heard from the President of the Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers, The Gambia (APEHOG), Nuha Fofana.
He told the committee that they were asked to write an apology letter to the Permanent Secretary because the authorities were not happy with some of the words the association used in their letters.
“We wrote the apology letter thinking the suspension will be rescinded but we still have not received a reply from them,” Fofana added.