Lesotho health workers down tools amid Minister stern warning

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… “we are simply pulling away from a hazardous situation” as 245 COVID-19 positive cases are recorded and three deaths.

Nicole Tau

Lesotho’s Coalition of Health Professionals nation-wide Health Workers’ stay-away started yesterday with staffers seen at hospitals and clinics basking in the sun.

The coalition called for a nation-wide stay-away in order to mount pressure on government following their demands for personal protective equipment as the country records more cases of the deadly COVID-19.

The health workers went on stay-away demanding also to be paid risk allowance and six-month tax holiday as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic albeit a stern warning issued by Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo, not to down tools.

Lesotho has according to a notice issued by Health Director-General Dr. Nyane Letsie tested 5849 specimens and discovered 245 persons have contracted the COVID-19. COVID-19 has now claimed three lives and only 33 recoveries recorded by the country.

In a letter to the Health Ministry dated July 10, health workers informed the ministry about their nation-wide work stoppage from yesterday July 13.

This, KDNews understands follows their dissatisfaction with Minister Maqelepo’s earlier statement regarding their long-standing demands.

Maqelepo had declared the health workers strike unlawful urging them to their job.

In response, Doctor Mojakisane Ramarikhoane, a member of the Lesotho Medical Association told KDNews “this is not a strike, we are simply pulling away from a hazardous situation”.

Ramarikhoane further added, “we all know, it is against the law for essential services workers to go on strike”.

Read also: M100,000.00 worth PPE donations to fight COVID-19 amid strike.

Ramarikhoane said the health workers, although are staying away from work, will still be attending to medical emergencies.

“Truth is we have been in talks with the government since around March 27. They should have listened to us and prepared than when we did not have any COVID-19 positive cases.

“But now that COVID-19 is finally here, we look like the bad guys due to their constant delays,” Ramarikhoane said.

Ramarikhoane pointed out that health workers’ demands are not exorbitant or unheard of and are on par with other countries’ that have Lesotho’s similar economic landscape.

Maqelepo had over the past weekend made a statement in which he addressed some of the health worker’s demands, but, Ramarikhoane argues that their demands were met with mockery and unfairness, maintaining that the government cannot meet one demand and leave out another as “our demands are a package deal”.

Ramarikhoane also took a swipe at Maqelepo suggesting that although he has tried to give them the time and place for negotiations, the health minister is inadequately informed and unaware of the reality at the health facilities.

“We feel like we are endangering our own lives, hence the stay away. Our priority right now is the PPE.

“That is our biggest concern because even if the government agrees to the Hazard Allowance, it will still be unsafe for us to go to work due to the unavailability of PPE,” said a health worker who chose only to refer to as Lerato for fear of reprisals.

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