Stinky Phebe Hospital a Top Concern for Bong Residents

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Suakoko, Bong County – Madam Catherine George, a resident of Suakoko in Bong County, recalls her distress the day she walked into Phebe hospital to learn that her 29-year-old brother had been left lying in bedsheets mucky with feces overnight.

“I came in one morning, and he’d been sitting in it all night long. He had called for help, and it just didn’t come,” she said.

George’s story is troublingly similar to many of the over 100 callers who on Saturday participated on a live phone-in discussion on Super Bongese, a Gbarnga-based community radio, about the condition of the hospital.

Nearly a third of respondents, who included health-care workers, relatives and friends of patients, said the hospital rooms and wards were not kept clean.

Stories shared by respondents from across the county described soiled bathrooms, patients left lying in their own waste and pleas to seemingly agitated nurses that went unanswered.

Beatrice Sagbeh, 41 – a resident of Gbarnga – who was treated for a bleeding sore at the hospital last month, says she ended up wiping down the bathroom herself after her complaints about the dried liquid waste she found on the floor and toilet seat failed to get a reaction, but she worried about older, less mobile patients.

“If I was a little sicker, I would have walked through that slop,” she said. “I wouldn’t have wiped the seats off.”

Patients, relatives turn cleaners

Sagbeh says she, too, brought her own sanitizing wipes to the hospital where her mother, who suffered from Typhoid, was treated after she discovered urine on the floor and the toilet seat. 

She said she always cleaned the bathroom before her mother used it, changed her mother’s soiled bedsheet after a request for new sheets went unheeded and gave her mother sponge baths because she found showers were infrequent.

“I know everybody nowadays has to work more with less, but to me, a hospital should be absolutely clean,” she said.

A more humane hospital

While cleanliness was a major cause for concern for those who called on Super Bongese, many respondents also talked about feeling alienated by the hospital system and getting the brush-off when they tried to raise issues of concern with staff.

Most respondents said they sympathized with nurses and doctors who seemed rushed and overworked but wished these professionals would communicate more openly and sympathetically with patients and family members.

Many people said they left the hospital feeling demoralized and disillusioned with the health-care system.

“We wait hours to be seen with no explanation why,” said Theresa Jones, another caller. “The entire emergency room staff desperately needs training on how to work with people. I always leave angry and wishing we had just stayed home instead.”

Continuing, she added: “We also don’t care that much about the floor, because it’s less likely you’re going to pick something up off the floor than you’re going to pick something up off your bed rails or your bedside table or your bedside telephone or your call bell.”

About two-thirds of hospital-acquired infections are preventable, a doctor at the hospital said, but making a direct link between cleanliness and infection is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Some hospital-acquired infections such as ventilator-associated pneumonia or central line-associated bloodstream infections have little to do with the hospital environment and can be controlled through proper protocols around equipment use. 

All efforts exerted by FrontPageAfrica to contact Dr. Jefferson Sibley, Phebe’s acting medical director, proved futile and local staffers who were at hospital upon arrival of our correspondent Monday would not comment.

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