If the ongoing strike by doctors in Sierra Leone lingers longer than necessary, the condition of children in critical health needs in hospitals across the country could become fatal.
This warning comes from Sick Pikin Project, a nonprofit helping poor children with life-threatening health conditions in the country get life-saving free treatment.
On Monday, doctors in the West African country under the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Council commenced an indefinite strike over low salaries and lack of work benefits. The strike has left thousands of patients, including children, without care in hospitals across the country.
Doctors in the country have since 2018 embarked on strike a few times, protesting poor work conditions. Besides their current request for better pay, they are asking the government to give them weekly allowances equivalent to 45 litres of fuel. The country has been experiencing a fuel shortage since March.
The government has promised to commence salary increments in September and give out weekly fuel vouchers. But the doctors say they do not trust the authorities given that there have been unpaid backlogs since last May and the fuel allowance system is not transparent.
Sick Pikin Project is appealing to the government to expedite its intervention to save lives in a country with one of the weakest health systems in the world.
"We are cognizant of the fact that even in normal times, many [citizens] struggle to access quality healthcare; such difficulty becomes compounded when healthcare givers, especially medical doctors, embark on strike action," part of a press statement it sent to one of Prime Progress' editors reads.
"Given the above, the Sick Pikin Project International is therefore appealing to the government of Sierra Leone to look at the demands of the doctors in a bid to meet the healthcare delivery needs of patients, especially children [with] the potential to suffer the most from this current situation."
Sick Pikin Project, which also regularly flies children with critical conditions to medically advanced countries for life-saving interventions, said it has 11 kids in different hospitals across Sierra Leone. It fears their conditions might worsen if the strike continues more protracted than necessary.
"Some [are] in need of medical surgeries," it said, while also appealing to the doctors to soften their demands and "provide a platform for discussion with the government and accommodate negotiations which eventually will lead to lives being saved by returning to work."