Suakoko, Bong County - Phebe hospital – one of the country’s biggest referral health institutions – is in dire straits as it is grappling with financial woes, a situation that is worsening the facility’s already dilapidated state.
Apart from the financial crisis, the institution that is always riddled with water woes, has been forced to abort some surgical operations due to a critical shortage of painkillers.
The institution is reported to be asking patients to purchase their own painkillers such as paracetamol.
As for the water crisis, maternity wards, the paediatric section, X-ray section, toilets have been the hardest hit.
Peeling floors characterize the shambolic state of the hospital. This kind of environment makes the hospital a safe haven for all sorts of bacteria. Efforts to get a comment from the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Jefferson Sibley, on the problems facing the hospital, proved futile as he would not comment.
Emailed questions had not been responded to by the time of going to print.
Public hospitals in Liberia receive funding from Government, which is then complemented by collections made internally, which is usually inadequate.
The central hospital is said to be facing financial challenges and is saddled with an accumulative debt, which at the last reported reconciliation, was over $ 1million Liberia dollar.
Hospital officials say that the outstanding debt is making it difficult for the referral hospital to provide some basic services.
The hospital, which serves hundreds of patients on a daily basis – mostly from the low-income bracket – is stuck between providing services to the poorest section of the population and enforcing a follow-up strategy on defaulting patients.
According to the Public Health Act, no-one is supposed to be turned away when they visit a public health centre to seek services due to non-payment.
FrontPage Africa understands that although the hospital has devised ways of recovering debts by engaging debt collectors, not much is being recovered.
To add to these woes, many patients are by-passing the referral system, under the illusion that services at the institution are free of charge. This has resulted in the hospital making headlines countless times, usually for running out of drugs.
Hospital faces drugs shortage
The hospital is also facing a serious shortage of drugs, many of them essential drugs, and this is causing deep concern among patients and health workers.
According to sources, over 50 essential drugs are in short supply in the hospital. Some of these drugs are critical for patients suffering from diabetes, asthma and heart conditions, as well as expectant mothers.
Some doctors at the hospital confirmed to FrontPage Africa Monday that the shortages have affected the hospital.
“One day we may have stocks of a particular drug, but the next day we may run out and additional stocks may not come,” a doctor at the hospital told FrontPage Africa. “Today we might not have enough saline, but the following day we will have enough.”
In the past, the Phebe hospital would receive supplies for three months at a time, while today stocks last for a week or less, a doctor said at the hospital said.
A doctor at the hospital said the shortages began to be felt early this year, and that antibiotics and anesthetics are in particularly short supply. The hospital buys drugs locally at the patients’ request.