‘No Written Document to Show Gov’t Owns Phebe Hospital’ – Liberia’s Health Minister

Monrovia – Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah has told lawmakers that despite huge budgetary support, the Phebe Hospital in Bong County is not managed by the Government of Liberia.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, gerald.koinyeneh@frontpageafricaonline.com

Dr. Jallah, addressing the plenary of the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 30, disclosed that because there is no document to show that Phebe is owned by the government to assume full management responsibilities, it is difficult to account for public resources that are allotted and disbursed to the hospital.

“I had the privilege of going to find out a lot of details about this particular hospital. And what I found out is that there is no written document to say that Phebe Hospital is a government institution,” Dr. Jallah told lawmakers.

According to her, she was informed that in 1974 when news emerged that Phebe was shutting down because of lack of funding, then President William R. Tolbert, Jr. instructed the Minister of Health at that time to intervene and save the hospital from closure since it was rendering basic health services to a large portion of the country’s population.

Said Dr. Jallah: “So, this hospital was not officially a government hospital. This hospital is run by a board and most of the members are Methodist, Episcopalian and other faith-based institutions. The government has a deputy position on that board. This makes it a little bit difficult to actually check into the finances at Phebe Hospital.”

She was speaking alongside Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah after they were summoned before that august body to state why they should not be held in contempt for their failure to honor the House’s invitation.

The two ministers, based on a communication from Bong County District #3 Representative Marvin Cole, had earlier been invited by plenary to respond to alleged plans of shutting down all operations at hospitals and other health facilities across the country including the Phebe hospital due to the lack of drugs and electricity to cater to patients seeking treatment at these facilities.

Dr. Jallah, in an apology, said that at the scheduled of her appearance, she was off to Geneva representing and advocating for Liberia to get more support for the health sector.

Rep Cole, in his communication, noted that it beats his imagination to hear reports of hospital shutting down or scaling down their operations due to lack of funding for fuel and medicines. 

“What has happened to the money we appropriated to the health sector?” he asked.

However, Dr. Jallah noted that at the time Phebe was struggling to keep its lights on, it had about US$250,000 in its account and one month prior to the fuel shortage, the hospital received US$50,000. 

The government, she added, has procured a three-month consignment of fuel for Phebe and there is currently a huge consignment of essential drugs in the country to be distributed to major hospitals across the country. 

She added that plans are being worked out to ensure that these medicines are properly managed and accounted for.

Also Speaking, Finance and Development Planning Minister Tweah disclosed that out of US$81 million budgetary allotments for Fiscal year 2018/2019 to the health sector, US$66 million has been disbursed. 

Of US$1.9 million appropriated for Phebe Hospital for Fiscal Year 2018/2019, he noted that almost US$1.5 million has been disbursed. 

For private health institutions, Tweah stated that of US$16 million allotments, US$6 million has been paid. 

He further noted that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning is working with several governmental line ministries and governmental agencies including the Ministry of Health to put in stringent monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure the proper expenditure and use of government resources and finance.

“There should be some distinctive features in the drugs we bring and the drugs other people are bringing in because it is unacceptable that we have to put in two to three 3 million [dollars] of drugs then the next thing they vanished. It is not fair,” he averred.

Meanwhile, House Plenary mandated the ministers to report to its joint committee on Ways, Means and Finance and Health with a comprehensive report of happenings in the Health sector to find a way forward.

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