By Festus Poquie
Martha Morris, the president of the Bong County chapter of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia open engagement in political campaign has raised debate about whether or not practicing nurse should be active in partisan politics.
Serving as chairperson for the Unity Party Bong County branch while working at the Phebe Hospital and school of Nursing, Martha has been campaigning for her Party that governed Liberia between 2006 and 2018 to return to state power.
She claimed healthcare delivery is poor now than when her party led the country.
She challenged local authorities who tried preventing her from using health facilities to campaign for opposition leader Joseph Boakai.
“Our Minister Wilhelmina Jallah came a few days ago to C.B Dumber, called everybody and told them that the government has agreed to increase our salary but it starts January and we are saying no to that,” Martha told Bong County Representative Melvin Cole.
“We are in the process of campaigning. The minister of Health is on a banner to ELWA Junction seeking for the reelection of George Weah. That means she has taken side.
“How can you tell me the president of health workers that should be in the position to direct my people because of the suffering we are going through that I should sit back and you run your campaign?
“I have come to this hospital today as their president who has advocated for them even under my own regime, the Unity party. It is my obligation to stand for them in these days of challenges.”
The looming question now is this: can health workers be involved in politics? Yes, they can with respect to influencing public policy but Martha’s partisan sentiment is what undermining her professed advocacy.
Nurses can get involved in advocacy in many ways, from participating in political campaigns to engaging with policymakers and speaking out on social media, Mona Mohamud, an Intensive care Nurse based in the United Kingdom wrote in a publication.
“By becoming more politically active, nurses can help to ensure that patients receive the best possible care and that their voices are heard in policy discussions.
“With an increased presence in the political arena, nurses will be better equipped to advocate for improved patient outcomes, safety standards, and better work conditions for all medical personnel.
Study as recent as 2019 showed there is consensus among nursing scholars, particularly those active in policy, politics, and nursing practice, that nurses need to be politically active
“For close to four decades, many nursing scholars have called for the profession to develop a cadre of politically active nurses in order to compete for scarce resources, a group of Ghanaian Nurse science professional said in a research paper.
“Scholars have presented various reasons as to why the call for nurses to be politically active is ethical and the right thing to do.
“Kelly (2007) posits that nurses must become political activists to safeguard the profession from unhealthy policies, which can be channeled through politics and changes in public policy.
Health reform has become largely polarized along political and partisan lines (Keepnews, 2012).
Hence, for nurses to influence such reforms, they must be both politically involved and politically skillful.”