Liberia: Govt Recalls All Doctors from Phebe Hospital

Front view of Phebe Hospital in Suakoko, Bong County

Suakoko, Bong County – The Ministry of Health has withdrawn all of its assigned doctors from Phebe Hospital in reaction to the hospital’s board decision to reject the transfer of Dr. Jefferson Sibley, the hospital’s medical director.

Report by Selma Lomax, [email protected]

FrontPageAfrica is yet to establish how many doctors were withdrawn from the hospital, but Dr. Francis Kateh, chief medical officer of Liberia, confirmed the latest development in an interview with a local radio station in Bong Saturday, stating: “Yes, we have withdrawn all of our assigned doctors that were at the hospital,” he stated.

Phebe Hospital was built by the Lutheran Church in Liberia, in partnership with the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church in 1921. For years, government has been funding the hospital through the national budget.

Discussions as to whether Phebe is private or government-run hospital have dominated discussions among both officials of government and members of the board.

Dr. Sibley, who was appointed by the Lutheran Church of Liberia, was transferred to different county as medical director by the government having served the hospital for over 10 years, but the board of the hospital reportedly rejected the decision by the government.

FrontPage Africa has gathered the board is insisting that the decision to change doctors at the hospital doesn’t fall in the preview of the government despite the hospital receiving annual budgetary support from the government.

A member of the hospital board speaking on condition of abnormity told FrontPage Africa: “Phebe Hospital is not  a government hospital and as such we won’t take instructions from the government with respect to managing the affairs of the hospital.”

But Dr. Kateh disagrees, arguing that it should be the responsibility of the government to assign or reassign doctors at the hospital when it is necessary.

Aaron Juakollie (left), executive director of Foundation for International Dignity and Jessie Cole (right) of Delta-Human Rights Foundation want the Ministry of Health find an alternative health response team from the 37 posts across Bong County

His words: ‘The government is supporting Phebe Hospital with 80 percent of its budget needed to run the hospital and as such key decisions at the hospital should be decided by the government.”

Dr. Kateh wasn’t definitive if the government would withdraw its budgetary support from the hospital, but stated that it was now that more support be given to C. B. Dunbar Maternity hospital, a government-run facility. “I can’t basically say if the government will withdraw its budgetary support from Phebe Hospital because of the latest decision by the board of the hospital because almost of the nurses and some of the personnel are being paid by government, but if an individual is investing in an institution and has no saying he or she must begin to rethink and so the government is in the process of rethinking as a major contributor to the hospital,” he said.

Phebe is the only referral hospital in central Liberia, catering to over 50,000 people, and the decision by the government to withdraw its assigned doctors leaves the hospital with only a doctor, FrontPage Africa has gathered.

This latest saga between the Ministry of Health and the board of Phebe has generated concerns from locals in Bong County, with residents calling for a resolution between the two parties to afford the poor acquire the needed healthcare.

The Executive Director of the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) and the head of Delta-Human Rights Foundation said they are deeply concerned and worried about the lives of ordinary citizens.

Aaron Juakollie of FIND and Jessie Cole of Delta-Human Rights Foundation want the Ministry of Health find an alternative health response team from the 37 posts across Bong County and neighboring counties whose residents seek healthcare at Phebe Hospital amid the ongoing saga to avoid the loss of lives.

Juakollie and Cole believed the government would be blamed if anyone died during the ongoing saga between the Ministry of Health and the board of Phebe Hospital because, they believed, it had not put in the right mechanisms before recalling its doctors from the hospital.