Liberia: Lack of Essential Care for Accident Victims: A Wakeup Call for the Failing Nation’s Health Sector

The Executive Mansion Press car had a head-on collision with the vehicle belonging to Cllr. Mical Wilkins Wright

The lack of essential drugs/care at the Phebe Hospital in Suacoco, Bong County where the accident victims were first ferried has again brought to bed how very vital this sector of our nation is and the need to always keep it afloat, very vibrant and fully functional.

FrontPageAfrica gathered the hospital has been struggling to accommodate patients due to the shortage of beds.

Even though, the head doctor at the hospital, Dr. Jefferson Sibley, tried to be diplomatic about the situation saying that it is being handled with “great attention,” this hospital and all others existing medical facilities are in dire need.

Former Solicitor General Cllr. Micah Wilkins Wright, who sustained an injury during Sunday’s accident of the Presidential motorcade, said he was advised by a nurse who was attending to him to go to a clinic or pharmacy to buy a piece of nylon string for use in the treatment of his wound in his arm.

Cllr. Wright said the shortage of drugs at the Phebe hospital was worrying. “You can’t have a centrally-located hospital like Phebe and there are no drugs,” he said.

Phebe Hospital’s Medical Director said the victims’ conditions were critical for the hospital to handle, especially in the absence of drugs to respond to emergency cases of such.

“This is a classic example of the problem Phebe faces as a hospital,” Dr. Sayblay said. “There is not a pain killer here. We hope the government will see the need to improve the hospital.”

According to our reporter in Gbarnga, Bong County, five persons were waiting for beds as of Monday night, a doctor in the Emergency Room said, adding that not all the patients waiting for admission could be described as “critical”. This was the day following the accident on Sunday, February 10. President George Weah had left Gbarnga and was on his way back to Monrovia when the Executive Mansion Press car had a head-on collision with the car carrying Cllr. Wright.

One of those very seriously injured in the accident is the videographer at the Executive Mansion, Mr. Gabriel W. Mills. He was transferred from Phebe to the nation’s biggest referral, ‘best’ hospital, John F. Kennedy Medical Center, in Monrovia.  

Unfortunately, JFK is not fully equipped to cater for the medical condition that Mills presented to them so they had to recommend that he be flown out of the country for more advanced treatment.

The Executive Mansion announced that the President was sending him to Abidjan, La Côte d’Ivoire, for this specialized treatment or “further treatment.”

This is because the hospital, which is supposedly the nation’s biggest, referral medical facility, is not up to the standard at the moment to cater for the condition not necessarily because they don’t want to. It is as a result of lack of adequate support to this hospital and all others that simple cases that can be treated are usually referred to them and they – abroad. An insider told FrontPageAfrica that the JFK Medical Center faces many challenges, including lack of gloves and essential drugs. “We only give patients their prescriptions and most times are told to go across the road to the pharmacy to buy their drugs,” a senior person at JFK, who asked for anonymity, said.       

When the President of Liberia mounted the podium to deliver his first ever Armed Forces Day message to the nation as Commander-In-Chief (CIC) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in 2018, not many expected him to have announced the construction of Liberia’s first military hospital. Few were probably privy to this information before he “let the cat out of the bag.”

On that Monday, February 12, when the President stood on that platform, he stated that his administration would raise the necessary funds to ensure that this modern health facility is built to cater to the healthcare of the gallant men and women of the AFL and their families.

“As the  Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, I will seek funds to build a modern health facility which will be the first ever medical facility built in Liberia to address the needs of our military and it will be a teaching hospital with well qualified doctors that will also train the soldiers and save lives,” President Weah declared.

Even though he did not say how much his administration would raise and how he intends on raising that money for the construction process, but his vow was applauded and is worth commending.

As he addressed that 61st Armed Forces Day celebration, he further disclosed that there is no specialized healthcare facility for the army and how some are abandoned in barracks or are left to languish in private wards with no attention.

The President promised that the hospital will be equipped with the most modern facilities, and will be staffed by highly trained medical personnel. He also stated that it will also be a teaching hospital to train the nation’s men and women in arms in ALL medical disciplines.

True to Mr. Weah’s words about the construction of the military hospital, on Monday, March 26, 2018, the President led an array of Liberian Government officials and development partners, to break grounds signaling the beginning of the construction of the 14 Military Hospital.

Great! Mr. President. Thanks you. But this is typically the scenario of the Liberian parable: “Dry dog sweet…”

For those of our international readers, when a Liberian recites this parable, “Dry dog sweet, but what will we be eating before the dog gets dry?” that person is simply trying to say, even though this idea of yours is very brilliant but before your idea is implemented or comes to fruition what is going to be in the interim when there exists similar things already. In order words, the person is saying ‘let’s firstly see how we can improve on this already existing one before we can think about the new one.’

Like in the case with President Weah’s proposed 14 Military Hospital construction: this is a brilliant idea. But the existing hospitals, including Phebe, John F. Kennedy Medical Center, the Redemption, C. B. Dunbar, C. H. Rennie and others are in dire need of funding in order to adequately serve the medical needs of the general public, including that of the military officers and their families, for whom the President so desired to build a hospital.

These medical facilities already have the needed infrastructures only needing to be adequately equipped and staffed with the right personnel in order to do just what the President envisages for the military hospital.

We know the President wants to leave that 14 Military Hospital as a legacy for this regime but Mr. President first things first.

Also, if the President truly cares about the Health Sector, we think that that money he is using to build, staff and equip from scratch the military hospital, when that same amount is evenly distributed among existing major health facilities, we think most of the health issues now facing the country would be somehow handled.

Mr. President, right now we don’t know how much you have allocated or raised for the construction of the military hospital. But please see what is happening now at Phebe, JFK and other hospitals.

Mr. President while we await the “dog to get dry,” please see reason to suspend funding to the 14 Military Hospital and divert same to existing health facilities in order to mitigate some of the existing challenges before we are not able to withstand any health threats.