Zorzor, Lofa County – FrontPageAfrica has gathered that locals in Zorzor District, Lofa County are complaining about the unavailability of essential drugs at the Curran Lutheran Hospital. According to several people who attend the health facility regularly, important drugs are hard to get at the hospital.
Madam Korto Zubah sits in a queue for over three hours and gets only two strips of pills at the pharmacy. She later told a reporter, a nurse had prescribed six drugs, four of which, she was told would be available at the pharmacy. She had no choice but to buy the remaining pills from a pharmacy outside the hospital. “They (the hospital) provide only low-cost medicines at the pharmacy here,” explains James Forkpah, a resident of Fussabu Town, Zorzor District. “I am afraid because this is the only referral hospital in the district and is out of drugs and I have to buy expensive medicines outside.” Forkpah is afraid that it is the rainy reason, and according to him, diseases are on the increase and the shortage of drugs at the main hospital in the area makes the situation critical. Weedor Beyan, another resident of Zorzor, says there are only low cost drugs at the hospital’s pharmacy, while Korzou kolubah, a mother of two and a resident of Kpayee - a town 25Km away from Zorzor – is weary of the lack of essential drugs at the hospital. “If we can’t get drugs from this hospital then where we will go,” she asked. The Curran Lutheran Hospital is owned and operated by the Lutheran Church of Liberia with subsidy from the Government of Liberia. According to hospital, the government provides US$50,000.00 in budgetary subsidy to the health facility which, sources at the hospital say, is a drop in the bucket, considering that the administration spends over US$25,000 on employees’ salaries. The hospital, in the past years, was heavily supported by foreign missionaries and with effective and efficient performance; it served half of the Guinea forest. Insiders within the administration say government needs to augment its budgetary support to the health center since it is the main referral hospital in that part of Lofa County. A source revealed to FPA that a recent audit by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) has prompted the suspension of the hospital’s administrator and accountant due to alleged financial irregularities. People in the district are claiming that the alleged financial malpractice is causing the poor performance of the hospital. “There was some audits conducted by the County Health Team and (GAC) General Auditing Commission and exposed some financial malpractices in the office of the chief accountant and the administrator of the hospital.” “Over two hundred and fifty thousand United States dollar (USD $ 250,000) was used without accountability, so this is some of the reasons that has led to the drugs shortage here,” the source said. But another well-placed source who prefers anonymity said although the hospital faces challenges, locals in the area are accustomed to the free services that the hospital offered in the past years and expect it to continue. Denying the reported drug shortage, an administration source said: “People in the communities are used to the missionary days because they don’t want to pay for drugs. So since this place is a private hospital, people expect it to be free like the past.” The source added that the recent visit of the Lutheran Bishop to the county focused on several discussions with the locals about the sustainability of the health facility. The Zorzor District Health Officer has refused to comment on the reported drug shortage at the Curran Lutheran Hospital, saying: “I can’t interfere with the hospital because it is a private institution,” Daniel Fayiah noted. The residents of Zorzor district are calling on other international partners and government to assist with additional health facility in the area because, according to them, it will ease the pressure on the Curran Lutheran Hospital. There are complaints that the health facility lacks the capacity to handle the many health problems in the district, and some residents complain that they cannot afford the fees charged there. Editor’s Note: This story was written in collaboration with Local Voices Liberia, a network of Liberian journalists working in the 15 counties. The network focuses on reporting stories that are under reported in major news outlet in the country. To read other stories by Local Voices Liberia Media Network