Jun 5 , 2021

Medical professionals of Black Lion Hospital, including resident physicians and nurses, went on a strike, bemoaning inadequate pay for COVID-19 frontline staff, delayed duty payments and a lack of medical supplies. Nurses were the most aggrieved as payments of duty for the past four months were not paid, and the risk payment was inadequate and unevenly distributed, sources disclosed to Fortune.

Risk payments to be paid for frontline staff facing COVID-19 were released in May of last year, allowing them to be paid for risking their lives based on the number of hours they put up. However, some were paid as low as 1,700 Br while others received up to 17,000 Br, said some of the nurses who protested on May 31, 2021. The nurses' discontent resulted from the low payment, which does not add up with the standards set forth by the Ministry of Health.

The nurses believe they should get up to 60,000 Br for 96 days of work, which all nurses have signed up for, Fortunelearnt.

"We understand if they don't have the budget to pay the full amount," said a nurse working at Black Lion. "But it should have been distributed evenly."

The Ministry of Health has so far settled partially settled payments to non-permanent resident staff, with staff receiving as high as 17,000 Br, while nurses are yet to receive a formal response.

"It happens frequently, and we convey our complaints every time, but we haven't gone unpaid this long," said a nurse. Duty payment is calculated based on the hourly rate of gross salary multiplied by the amount of time spent on duty.

The nurses should place a complaint, and they have been told the administration will address it as it deems appropriate upon review, according to Tesfaye Solomon, communications director of Black Lion Hospital, the largest specialised hospital in the country for having 1,000 beds. Established in 1972, the Black Lion has 3,400 employees of which 700 are health professionals and 1,200 staff such as nurses and lab technicians.

The Hospital also has more than 900 permanent and contract administration staff to support its operations.

These professionals also depicted how the grave shortage of medical equipment has severely affected the provision of health services in the hospital. They have faced a severe shortage of medical gloves and other pharmaceutical supplies such as laboratory tests and the overcrowding of care units. There have also been reports of shortages of disposable products such as medical cotton, gloves and alcohol. The Hospital has recognised the issue and is holding talks with government officials to find solutions, Tesfaye told Fortune.

A contributing factor for the drastic shortage of medical gloves can be attributed to high demand and exorbitant increase in prices and defects found in a huge supply of gloves.

"There is no denying that a nationwide shortage of medical supplies has been prevalent since the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced," said Seife Demissie, pharmaceuticals supply director at the Addis Abeba Health Bureau. "But it isn't as severe as implied."

The Bureau and the City Administration have spent up to 1.3 billion Br, in addition to the regular health budget, to aid health equipment provision for hospitals.

"The existing health system was not ready to accommodate an emergency response," said Seife, adding that improper budget use is partly to blame for equipment shortages.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 05,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1101]

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