Sierra Leone doctors strike for wages and fuel allowances

FREETOWN (Reuters) – Doctors across Sierra Leone went on an indefinite strike on Monday to protest low pay and lack of benefits, leaving dozens of patients in hospital waiting rooms needing treatment.

Doctors said they lost between 20% and 40% of their take-home pay in May after the government ended their monthly COVID-19 risk allowance and tax relief they had received with the start of the pandemic .

They are also asking for fuel allowances of 45 liters per week, which they say has been promised but has not been delivered for years.

Doctors also staged strikes in 2018 and 2020 in the West African country, protesting low pay, poor working conditions and unpaid bonuses. Sierra Leone has some of the worst health outcomes in the world.

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The government said it had met doctors’ demands and wages would be increased in September. Fuel vouchers will also be distributed weekly, Health Minister Austin Demby said.

“It’s very, very difficult to understand why a strike is necessary,” Demby said.

But the backlog of extra pay due since May has not been resolved and doctors don’t trust the fuel allowance system, said Edries Tejan, president of the Medical and Dental Association.

“Doctors aren’t convinced that the particular system they’re proposing will work,” he said.

(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Grant McCool)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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