Sierra Leone’s doctors end nationwide strike

FILE PHOTO: Hawanatu Conteh, a nurse at Connaught Hospital, tends to a patient while the hospital’s doctors strike over pay and conditions, in Freetown, Sierra Leone December 4, 2018. Picture taken December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Cooper Inveen/File Photo

FREETOWN (Reuters) – Doctors in Sierra Leone returned to work on Tuesday, ending a 13-day strike over pay and conditions that paralyzed hospitals nationwide, the country’s junior doctors’ association said.

The strike impacted an already threadbare health system in one of the world’s poorest countries, leaving its biggest and busiest hospitals in disarray and the sick unattended.

The health ministry said late on Monday it had agreed a timeline with doctors to respond to their demands, announcing the agreement in a statement signed by the heads of two doctors’ associations.

“At this point we can only trust their word,” said Abdul Njai, president of the junior doctors’ association. “It’s not exactly how we wanted things to go, but our patients need us now. They can’t wait any longer.”

The ministry has agreed to meet the doctors’ demands over the course of the next year and asked them not to disclose further details, Njai said.

Striking doctors had been demanding pay rises, equipment purchases, and health insurance for medical professionals.

Sierra Leone is still recovering from an Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016 that killed nearly 4,000 people, including more than 250 medical staff.

Reporting by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Juliette Jabkhiro and Gareth Jones

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