Playing Double Standards with the Nation’s Health Sector
WHEN THE PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA, Mr. George Manneh Weah, mounted the podium to deliver his first ever Armed Forces Day message to the nation as Commander-In-Chief (CIC) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), not many expected him to have announced the construction of Liberia’s first military hospital. Few were probably privy to this information before he “let the cat out of the bag.”
ON THAT MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, when the President stood on that platform, he stated that his administration would raise the necessary funds to ensure that this modern health facility is built to cater to the healthcare of the gallant men and women of the AFL and their families.
“AS THE COMMANDER-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, I will seek funds to build a modern health facility which will be the first ever medical facility built in Liberia to address the needs of our military and it will be a teaching hospital with well qualified doctors that will also train the soldiers and save lives,” President Weah declared.
EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT SAY how much his administration would raise and how he intends on raising that money for the construction process, but his vow was applauded and is worth commending.
AS HE ADDRESSED THAT 61ST Armed Forces Day celebration, he further disclosed that there is no specialized healthcare facility for the army and how some are abandoned in barracks or are left to languish in private wards with no attention.
THE PRESIDENT PROMISED that the hospital will be equipped with the most modern facilities, and will be staffed by highly trained medical personnel. He also stated that it will also be a teaching hospital to train the nation’s men and women in arms in ALL medical disciplines.
TRUE TO MR. WEAH’S WORDS about the construction of the military hospital, on Monday, March 26, the President led an array of Liberian Government officials and development partners, to break grounds signaling the beginning of the construction of the 14 Military Hospital.
Great! Mr. President. Thanks you. But this is typically the scenario of the Liberian parable: “Dry dog sweet…”
FOR THOSE OF OUR INTERNATIONAL readers, when a Liberian recites this parable, “Dry dog sweet, but what will we be eating before the dog gets dry?” that person is simply trying to say, even though this idea of yours is very brilliant but before your idea is implemented or comes to fruition what is going to be in the interim when there exists similar things already. In order words, the person is saying ‘let’s firstly see how we can improve on this already existing one before we can think about the new one.’
LIKE IN THE CASE WITH PRESIDENT Weah’s proposed 14 Military Hospital construction: this is a brilliant idea. But there are existing hospitals, including the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, the Redemption and others that are in dire need of funding in order to adequately serve the medical needs of the general public, including that of the military officers and their families, for whom the President so desired to build a hospital.
THESE MEDICAL FACILITIES already have the needed infrastructures only needing to be adequately equipped and staffed with the right personnel in order to do just what the President envisages for the military hospital.
WE KNOW THE PRESIDENT wants to leave that 14 Military Hospital as a legacy for this regime but Mr. President first things first.
ALSO, IF THE PRESIDENT TRULY cares about the Health Sector, we think that that money he is going to take to build, staff and equip from scratch the military hospital, when that same amount is evenly distributed among existing major health facilities, we think most of the health issues now facing the country would be somehow handled.
IMAGINE, IN THE RECAST BUDGET, this administration had placed US$200,000 in it just for “feasibility study” for the construction of this new hospital. This is coming at the time when existing facilities can hardly get operational budgets.
ON MONDAY, APRIL 16, DR. FRANCIS KATEH, who is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Republic of Liberia told Liberians that if nothing is done to remedy the financial crisis at the Redemption Hospital in New Kru, the closure of the hospital and other government-run facilities is imminent.
THE US$200,000 THAT was used just to do feasibility study for the proposed 14 Military Hospital could have been shared among existing facilities, in Monrovia and around the country.
DR. KATEH, WHO IS ALSO Deputy Minister of Health for Health Services, emphasized that he had visited Redemption Hospital on Wednesday and tried to put into place a mechanism to ensure that it remains functional but this is not sustainable if the needed funding to keep it running isn’t made available.
THIS IS SO SERIOUS THAT DR. KATEH promised to reach out to other affected hospitals in the Southeast, indicating that health authorities will ensure that services are restored to save Liberians’ lives.
HE LAMENTED THAT IT is disheartening to see Redemption, which cater for nearly the whole Western Region of the country, threaten with closure as a result of lack of support.
MR. PRESIDENT, RIGHT NOW we don’t know how much you have allocated or raised for the construction of the military hospital. But please see what is happening now to the Redemption Hospital.
IT WILL SOON RUN OUT OF SUPPLIES, and the administrator, Mr. Dominic W. Rennie, is also not ruling out a collapse of the facility if intervention is delayed.
“RIGHT NOW WE ARE FACING challenges in the areas of electricity, transportation for the staff, fuel for the generators, and we also have problem with drugs supply,” Rennie says.
MR. PRESIDENT IN CASE you didn’t know, Redemption Hospital, which is the largest government free health center in the country, is allotted US$2 million in the fiscal budget but receives less than US$1.4 million due to frequent budget shortfalls.
IT’S ALMOST FOUR MONTHS now since the hospital received the second quarter of the budgetary allotment. The third quarter allotment of US$500,000 from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning is pending. Unfortunately, it was drastically reduced to US$60,000 in the recast budget by your administration.
THE DELAY IN DISBURSING THE money is compounding the challenges at the hospital, Rennie says, “And the US$60,000 is very little and would not cover the hospital’s operational cost.”
MR. PRESIDENT WHILE we await the “dog to get dry,” please see reason to suspend funding to the 14 Military Hospital and divert it to existing health facilities in order to mitigate some of the existing challenges before we are not able to withstand any health threats.