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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Some nurses turned up for work at hospitals in Liberia on Monday despite calls for a strike to demand better hazard pay amid an Ebola epidemic.
A strike could severely hamper Liberia's ability to respond to the largest ever Ebola outbreak. The disease is believed to have killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, and Liberia has recorded the deadliest toll.
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, like blood and vomit, putting health workers at particular risk. With many treatment centers overflowing with patients and often insufficient protective gear, those providing care have become infected in large numbers in this outbreak. The latest World Health Organization toll said about 400 health workers have contracted the disease, nearly half of those in Liberia.
In view of the dangerousness of their work, members of the National Health Workers Association are demanding higher monthly hazard pay. The association boasts more than 10,000 members, though the health ministry says only about 1,000 of those are employed at sites receiving Ebola patients.
But at least some nurses were turning up for work Monday, according to Gobee Logan, a doctor at a government hospital in Tubmanburg, 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the capital of Monrovia.
The hardest hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had too few health workers even before the outbreak began, and infections in health workers has only further hampered their ability to respond.
The call to strike was for nurses, physician's assistants, lab technicians and other health workers, but not doctors. Any such strike would make caring for patients even harder since health workers who are not doctors make up the bulk of staff at clinics and hospitals.
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