Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – Festina Myers, 30, smiles as she breastfeeds her little girl. Her legs stretch across the hospital bed as her baby - wrapped in comfortable sheets - lies on her thigh firmly.
She could barely speak louder but was thankful for a safe delivery. Her little girl, named Dorcas, came to this world a day ago though there were some late birth complications.
“The hospital did completely well for me,” Festina said in a faint tune. “When I came, the doctor carried me for operation and my operation was successful.”
Festina is amongst over 4,750 patients that sought medical care at the Liberian Government hospital in Buchanan, in May 2016 alone, and she is also one of several women that have given birth at the hospital with no recorded maternal death over the past three months.
Maternal mortality refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth, according to the United Nation children agency, UNICEF.
The hospital says it is making strides in providing health care and has embarked on a rigorous transformation of the hospital.
“The gap that has been between the community and the hospital is actually decreasing, “explains Dr. Willie Benson, Head Medical Doctor of the hospital.
“People are having more trust in the facility and that is evident by how many deliveries that have been done at this facility in the last three months.”
At the beginning of 2016, Dr. Benson assured, during an interview with FrontPageAfrica, that his administration is determine to effectively improving the hospital. The Liberian Government Hospital in Buchanan has struggled with multiple challenges over the years.
Improving the community-hospital relationship, identifying drug profile to reduce gap and reducing congestion at the hospital were all pressing concerns that needed attention at the facility.
But with 500 births at the hospital and zero maternal mortality over the past three months, Dr. Benson says the increment of the number of midwives and the coming in of another doctor have greatly improve services at the hospital.
He disclosed that between November 2015 and February 2016 there were at least two maternal deaths every month.
“Not only that we increased the number of staff…, we started getting more involved with the TTM (Traditional Trained Midwives),” he said.
“We started having monthly meeting with them indicating that if you (midwife) don’t bring those patients early enough there will be action taken against you. TTMs are now obliged to bring all pregnant women to the hospital on time.”
Reducing maternal and neonatal deaths are important pillars of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 5) and global statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 289 000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2013, a decline of 45% from levels in 1990.
In Liberia, 2014 WHO’s Liberia maternal new born, child and adolescent health policy indicator, the annual number of neonatal death in 2013 was 3,793.
When President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took office in 2006 she promised to tackle the country's maternal death rate which is now 994 out of every 100,000 live births (one of the highest in sub Saharan Africa), and the President again in 2014 stressed that reducing maternal death is still the government's top priority.
Despite the progress in Buchanan, Dr. Benson admitted that maternal mortality is still a difficult challenge for the country’s health sector but said pregnant women are being taken care of in a better way at his hospital.
“These women are being presented to the hospital early so the pregnant women are being encouraged more to come and seek care at the facility,” Dr. Benson added.
He disclosed that AmeriCares, an international Non-Governmental Organization, has brought in a foreign professional midwife from Nigeria to provide mentoring for midwives and hands-on treatment for patients at the hospital. Despite the progress, Dr. Benson disclosed there are other constraints which include people not seeking timely medical treatment. “We are still having problem with people not coming to hospital on time; this is still persisting.” More Beds, Less Congestion Like several other problems, congestion has been a nightmare for nurses and doctors at the government hospital in Buchanan. The hospital says it has tried to address the problem in several ways which include the purchased of 15 pediatric beds and the recent donation of 30 beds by the Nyonblee Cares Foundation – a charity sponsored by Grand Bassa Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence. “Through Senator Karnga-Lawrence’s foundation, all the old beds have been changed and we’ve increased the number of beds as well,” the head doctor said. He added that presence of another doctor at the hospital and regular help from the County Health Officer (CHO), who is a professional surgeon, has reduced the work load at the hospital. Drug Availability Still a Challenge Commenting on the supply and availability of drugs at the hospital, the head doctor said ‘it is a work in progress’ adding that they have seek assistance from several donors to help curtail drug shortage at the health center. “We have gone out on our own to augment the drugs that come from the NDS (National Drug Service) and have had in-service training for staff on how to dispense drugs at the hospital,” Dr. Benson said. Supply of needed drugs has often been a challenge for the main government run hospital in Grand Bassa County creating low confidence in many locals about the health facility. Buchanan, a city with a growing population of 224,839 according to the 2008 national population census has emphasized the significance of improving its main public health facility. And Dr. Benson hinted that the health facility is gearing towards becoming a regional referral hospital for Rivercess, Sinoe and Grand Bassa Counties. He said frantic negotiations are ongoing to improve the hospital’s status which he said will be very strategic for health care delivery in the three counties. “We are not only trying to make this hospital a referral hospital, but we are trying to set a bench mark for excellence,” he said.