The Lies, Mistrust That Bewilder Liberia’s Health Sector Still Exist
OUR COUNTRY’S HEALTH SECTOR is the worst in the sub-region, one can arguably say. But this argument is concrete. Evidence to prove that are overwhelming and such was made public spectacle with the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.
ACE WRITER, DAYO OLOPADE, was exceedingly right when she wrote in the April 12th edition of the New York Times: “Liberian health systems under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman to be elected president of an African nation, were overwhelmed by the outbreak. Just 50 doctors at that time served Liberia’s 4.3 million people. Sluggish education and quarantine efforts failed because of widespread mistrust of the government, and particularly Ms. Johnson Sirleaf.”
MEMORIES OF THE EBOLA period to date still fill the eyes of victims and relatives of victims with tears. Many who did not contract the virus in other ways suffered the consequence of the inability of the health sector to manage the spread of the disease and the stigma attached.
WOMEN WERE FORCED TO deliver their new born in the streets in broad day light without the aid of any health care practitioner, simply because hospitals – including the ones operated by the government – were refusing patients, including pregnant women, too.
HAPPENINGS LIKE THESE, coupled with appeals from all Liberians, NOGs working in Liberia and one from Ms. Johnson Sirleaf to the world via BBC saw the pouring in of financial and humanitarian support to help curtail the virus.
IN DECEMBER 2015, THE World Bank Group Mobilized US$1.62 billion in financing for Ebola response and recovery efforts to support the countries hardest hit by the virus. Liberia received a giant share of US$318 million. Many believed, even officials of the health sector, also believed that there was a better side of the epidemic – an opportunity to improve the health sector. With the aids pouring in, they put international partners and the public under the belief that the country’s health sector was set for a new trajectory, despite the outbreak.
IN NO TIME, AFTER the outbreak, President Johnson Sirleaf in her 2015 Annual Message announced the roadmap to recovery. Well, this roadmap if not in oblivion, is perhaps just one of those instruments that were intended to create mere impression.
CREATING ABSTRACT impressions, lack of accountability, mismanagement of resources and insincerity have been the business of this government – a major reason for which many Liberians did not believe the existence of the Ebola Virus Disease back in March 2014.
IN RECENT TIME, FrontPageAfrica has been reporting on dozens of women being held at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center due to be their inability to pay the cost of delivery and other medical expenses at the facility.
ONE OF THE WOMEN FrontPageAfrica initially spoke with said she owed the hospital LD$19,000 but could not afford the amount.
“I CAME HERE WHEN the clinic I was attending told me that the child crossed and I was bleeding so the ambulance brought me from Kakata to E.L.W.A and they said no bed so they brought me here (JFK) to deliver,” she explained.
“SINCE I GAVE BIRTH, I’m still here; no family member has come to pay my bills for me to be discharged,” she added.
SHE WAS RELEASED from the hospital upon FPA’s publication of how new baby mothers were being held by the Hospital because they could not afford to settle their bills.
PHILANTHROPISTS WHO PREFERRED not being named flocked in the hospital and settled some the bills of some of the women. FrontPageAfrica is sure of this because we were contacted before some of the releases were made.
YET, IN ANOTHER SHOW of insincerity, the JFK Medical Center issued a press release insinuating that FPA deliberately reported on misconceptions, outright lies and terrible ignorance.
JFK RELEASE: “THE Management clarifies in stronger term that at no time has the Medical Center detained any of the approximately five hundred persons that access comprehensive medical care at its Center daily. The Management would like to admonish the paper that JFK as a professional healthcare provider embraces patient cares and as such it will never be in the business of reprimanding or rejecting them. Patients who cannot meet up with their obligation, the social services department of the JFK Medical Center work along with such patient until taken home.
“SUCH CASE IS A COMPONENT of our waiver/gratis given to the public with specific emphasis to women and children. Furthermore, to deal with the issues of teenage pregnancy, breastfeeding program and caring for the newborn and other programs are being put in place and usually require an extended period of stay in order for the wellbeing of the babies. Such program may be misunderstood by the uninformed and the good intentions misinterpreted.”
DESPITE THE ISSUANCE OF THIS release in which the hospital claimed its social service department works with patients who cannot meet up with their obligations until such patient is taken home, FPA continues to receive complaints from insiders of mothers being held for unsettled bills.
LAST THURSDAY, FPA with the help of some donor funding from Liberians both at home and abroad settled the bills of Nancy Nathan who gave birth to her beautiful baby girl on April 1. She was kept in the hospital until April 13 after FPA managed to contact one of her relatives.
WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND why the hospital would malign our hard earned reputation to save its face when all we did was to report the truth.
NANCY, UPON HER release from the hospital told News Desk Chief, “My brother, I gave birth since the first [of April], but they were holding me there because I can’t pay the bills. My man came and paid some but he couldn’t pay all so they were keeping me there. It wasn’t only me. We were almost 15 there. Some people came and freed some of the girls there. Some good has been coming to free some of the women who couldn’t pay their bills.”
IF THE FPA’S REPORT was false and misleading, how come there were several philanthropists going to the aid of the women quietly immediately after the publication?
IF THE FPA REPORT was false and misleading then Nancy wouldn’t have come to the offices of the FPA after we got her bills settled with the help of donors.
THE JOHN F. KENNEDY Medical Center and the Ministry of Health rather ought to focus its energy on improving health care delivery, especially to the women of Liberia, rather than maliciously discrediting the integrity of the FrontPageAfrica.
IT IS THESE KINDS OF INSINCERITY and blatant disregard to challenges that ordinary are face with that has stalled our development as Africa’s oldest republic.