President of the Junior Doctors’ Association, Dr Jeredine George, told Politico her members resolved to continue with their action while talks were ongoing with ministry of health officials to try to resolve the logjam.
The doctors say they will only maintain “a skeletal presence” at hospitals across the country where their members work until concerns over the deaths of 10 doctors were addressed.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, they say they have been working under a “meagre salary and high risk with no health insurance” and that their action is akin to “the ‘tactical retreat’ of soldiers in the warfront when it is obvious that they are losing commanders in order to protect the lives of other soldiers”.
Dr George said they were concerned about “the alarming rate at which doctors are succumbing to the Ebola virus” with 11 having been infected, 10 of whom have died.
“These deaths happened because the modalities that should have been put in place in the country in order to support the vital organs when complications due to the cause of the disease arise are not in place” she said.
They are asking for a specialised treatment unit with a dialysis machine where doctors would be treated should they get infected “in the absence of possible evacuation”.
“We have decided that we are the frontline workers, we have raised so many concerns and we have still not been listened to…We have decided to withhold the majority of our services…until the establishment of this facility”, she said.
Deputy health minister, Madinatu Rahman expressed concern over the strike. She said she understood with the concerns of the junior doctors but that her government was “addressing those issues and we have a timeline. Most of these things are already being ordered and are expected in the country between the 16 and 17” December, adding that it would all be operational by the 20 December.
“This is a crucial time, this is a crisis period. The whole world is here to help us so if we Sierra Leoneans don’t put our shoulders to the wheel what will they think about us?” she rhetorically asked.
The UN World Health Organisation says Sierra Leone has overtaken Liberia as the worst hit country.
Strike actions are common in the Ebola fight with nurses, lab technicians and even those who bury the Ebola dead having taken their turn of service withdrawal.