Monrovia - Liberia’s health sector received a major boost on Thursday, January 11, when Medicine San Frontier, commonly known as MSF dedicated a pediatric surgery unit at the organization’s hospital in Bardnesville, outside Monrovia.
In his opening remarks at the inaugural ceremony, the Country Representative of MSF Liberia, Johan Sommansson, noted that the facility is a first of its kind and the organization will offer free-of-charge surgery to children with certain pathologies within a five-year period.
Mr. Sommansson recounted that opening of the facility is a result of several negotiations between the MSF Country office and the organization’s international headquarters in Paris as well as national institutions in Liberia to make sure that the project is implementable.
“The opening of the new operation theater has been something new. Today’s event marks two occasions in one. It marks the initiation of a new challenge; not only to MSF in Liberia, but MSF worldwide. We performed surgeries in many countries every day, but to have a specialized pediatric surgery facility and have a specialized pediatric surgeon brought over is a new challenge for MSF,” he said.
In addition to operating a hospital that treats hundreds of patients every month, couple with the opening of a new pediatric surgery center, MSF Liberia has initiated its mental health program and has been operating for the past four months at four clinics in Montserrado County.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of Liberia, the Deputy Minister of Health and Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Kateh commended MSF for the center, first of its kind in Liberia, and noted that it would be a major boost to the health system of Liberia.
Dr. Kateh hailed the organization for its continuous presence and rendering basic health services in Liberia despite the fact that that the country is not in any crisis and stressed the need for the government to build on the capacity of its citizens to take ownership of the facility when the project’s tenure expires.
“It is now time to think outside of the box and begin to cultivate some of the things that have been established and build on it. Today we are here to see something that is historical not only for us Liberia, but for MSF also. We are very grateful,” Dr. Kateh said.
“It’s an opportunity for Liberia. Now that it has been established, the real issue is how can it benefit the total good of the people of Liberia and outside of our borders?
And so from the side of the government, it is now time that we all begin to think about but what happens after five years.
How can we prepare ourselves; how can we work with others and build the specialty that is needy to take care of the people of Liberia. I think that is very critical. And so, with the post graduate school that is here, this is now time for the school to begin to think and trained one or two persons that may have passion for pediatric,” Dr. Kateh.
In a brief interview with FrontPage Africa, the President of the Board of Directors of MSF USA, Dr. John Lawrence noted that the center was established in the aftermath of the deadly Ebola outbreak to cater to the health needs of children, but as time went by, MSF decided to open the Pediatric surgical center when it realized that there were not sufficient access to care for children surgical problems.
Dr. Lawrence, who is also a Pediatric Surgeon with over ten years of working experience with the MSF in several African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and the Ivory Coast, said he was excited to begin work in Liberia and noted that all is set for operation at the facility.
“In the surgical side we will be doing elective surgery, we will be choosing children from two to 14 years and emergency will be children of any age up to 15. Right now they will be involved in pediatric general surgery.
Hope that in the near future, they will get very sub specialists to work at the hospital, such as pediatric Plastic Surgeon, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon, Pediatric Neurologist that will come and do specialized surgery at times,” Dr. Lawrence averred.
He further noted that although there is no plan to expand to other parts of the country, the project has the potential to benefit the entire country because those that will be trained will take assignment at various hospitals and clinics across the country.
He expressed hope that following the five year period of the project, they will be able to train Liberians who will in turn run the facility and transfer the knowledge to others.
“If we are training nurse and nurse aid, the majority will be working at various hospitals and health center across the country. The dedicated experience they might receive here in taking care of the surgical needs of children and providing anesthesia for children are opportunities to get expertise and training in Liberia which will be beneficial to everyone in Liberia,” he said.
He is optimistic that in the five-year period of the project, they will identify one or two Liberian trainees who will learn pediatric surgery, practice at the hospital for two years “so that they can basically do the job that I do as well. But then they will be the ones staying to train the next generation of Liberian surgeons”.