Paramedics School, Neuroscience Center Of Excellence In Sight For Liberia

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MONROVIA – As the availability of Neurosurgeons remains scarce in post-conflict Liberia, the only Neurosurgeon in the country,Dr. Alvin Doe Nah, is expected to carry out surgical operations on more than 250 Liberians suffering from multiple medical problems, including brain tumor under a free neurosurgical operations launched by the Korle Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF) in Liberia.

A Neurosurgeon is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system including congenital anomalies, trauma, tumors, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.

Founded in 2009, KBNF is a charity foundationbased in Canada and engaged into developing and supporting neurosurgery in countries in West Africa, including Liberia.

An awareness of the group’s second neurosurgical operations which runs from November 4-26, 2021 was held over the week,commencing with a walk from the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital junction in Congo Town, outside Monrovia to the compound of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor, Monrovia.

Speaking to Reporters shortly after the climax of the walk, Dr. Nah pointed out that hundreds of patients have already been screened to benefit from the free medical initiative.

He disclosed that out of the total of about 250 patients screened, about 150 of them need surgeries.

“The intend of this walk is to see how KBNF can continue to support us to heal people and be able to do some surgeries that have never been done in this country, including those that some people have given up all hope that they are going to die. It is almost that they have been given their death sentence and so KBNF is making changes in their lives”.

He noted that during the first initiative in 2020, most of the patients screened have serious conditions that needed care which couldn’t be afforded in Liberia.

According to him, these patients couldn’t also afford the needed financial support to fly them to Ghana or India for neurosurgical operations.

This, Dr. Nah added, contributed to the deaths of about five of the patients.

The issues

Dr. Nah pointed out that the ongoing screening presently ongoing for the second exercise has shown lot of critical cases and the team has decided to ensure that those cases are addressed during the first week of the surgical operations.

“Among the cases we have seen, we have over ten brain tumor or growth in the brain. Out of that number, there are more males than females tumor patients. We also have more cases of patients suffering from chronic back pains lasting for over three years and some of them having the inability of controlling their urine; at times some of them even find it difficult to walk”.

He emphasized that medical instruments needed to ensure that these patients walk freely as compare to others have been lacking over the years, but KBNF has intervened to address the situation.

According to him, over 20 patients will again walk freely, while children born with swelling on their heads and other parts of their bodies will also be treated.

“Those patients that might likely go under surgery are over 150 and we have just two weeks. The time is not sufficient because neurosurgical cases are not like the normal surgical-You are working at regions of the body that are very, very eloquent; it is a danger zone and any little mistake, you may either leave the patient condition worse or the patient will not be able to wake up”.

“In JFK, we spent six to eight hours on just one brain tumor patient. It is not only the issue of operating but what comes after is the care of the patient”.

Care matters

Dr. Nah stated that specialized doctors from United States, Nigeria and Ghana will arrive in the country to also provide training for nurses to be able to take proper care of patients to guarantee their wellbeing and survival.

“Surgery is not just about cutting; it is about the care before, after and during surgery”. 

Regrets

Dr. Doe, however, expressed regret that Liberia, an aged-old country with a population of over five million people has only one Neurosurgeon.

“Had it not been for this caring organization (Korlu Bu Neuroscience Foundation), we couldn’t have done some minor neurosurgical cases in this country. We continue to thank Canada and especially all those who continue to support this organization”.

He expressed hope that the foundation will see the need to provide additional support towards the development neurosurgery in Liberia.

Tedious and hectic 

Dr. Nah further lamented the hectic and tedious nature of the tasks and responsibilities he carries out on a regular basis.

“To be very honest with you, practicing (Neuroscience) in Liberia is huge and truly hectic. It makes you to forgo many activities. The only hope you have is your family”.

Dr. Nah pointed out that his wife has been an inspiration to his passion for the work he does, noting that, “Had it not been for her, I could have changed”.

“Right now we are carrying on pre-screening. This is very challenging because I am carrying it on alone. I usually leaves sometimes 9PM, 10PM and in between there are emergency cases sometimes. I have to leave patients sitting at the trauma or emergency room to attend to other patients”.

He recounted the patience of most ill-persons who normally seek medical attention at the Out-Patient Department (OPD) at the public health facility.

He noted many days these patients are compelled to wait for several hours just to be screened or seek medical advice on their respective conditions. 

Don’t doubt Liberian doctors

Dr. Doe further used this medium to call on Liberians home and abroad to desist from doubting the ability of their fellow compatriots who have been schooled in the medical profession.

According to him, the JFK has trained, competent and professional specialized doctors with great potential as compare to other doctors around the globe.

“We have a load of huge manpower but all we need from our people in the diaspora and at home is to provide the needed instrument and devices. It is not only providing these instruments, but also training the medical practitioners”.

“It is normal that people will always doubt, but it is our duty to make sure every day in our lives our people can know that we are doing a great job and we are doing our best”

“There are things that we are doing at the JFK that most of our people do not know. We have people here who are trained to do hip and knee replacement. We don’t need to go Ghana to do that”.

Cost intensive

Dr. Nah emphasized that though citizens and others leaving or opting to depart Liberia to seek medical attention abroad for sicknesses or situations that can be handled in the country should be cognizant of the huge financial burdens associated with their decisions.

He named exorbitant air transport fare for between two to three persons, hotel and medical bills, among others as some of the costs associated with travelling abroad for advance medical treatment.

He said though he does not intend to discourage Liberians and others from travelling abroad to seek medical attention, preference must be given to their professional and specialized countrymen assigned at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.


Encouragement and support 

“We need to continue to encourage our young people. We have lot of limitations when it comes to the medical field. The good news is that we just need our people to support us because, Liberians are smart people”.

Dr. Nah stated that if young Liberians are encouraged and provided adequate support to further their studies, they can immensely contribute to the development of the country’s health system.

He, however, vowed to ensure the provision of adequate healthcare delivery in keeping with international medical standards in carrying on his work in an effective and efficient manner under the KBNF free neurosurgical mission operations.

“I want to use this time to assure the patients that we are not God; but we are going to do our best to save many lives”. 

Also speaking, KBNF Director for West Africa, Dr. Benedict Kolee disclosed that Liberia remains the only country where the biggest operations of the foundation’s workings and operations are being done in West Africa.

He stated that at one of the group’s conferences held abroad, a decision was reached for the construction of a Neuroscience Center of Excellence in West Africa.

He added that “by the grace of God and because of Liberia is having only one Neurosurgeon as compare to other countries including Ghana and Nigeria”, a decision was reached at the conference that the center may likely be constructed in Liberia.

Paramedics school for Liberia

Dr. Kolee indicated that the foundation is also opting to establish a paramedic school in Liberia within the next 24 months.

He emphasized that the school will have a “North-American accreditation” and will ensure that graduates from the institution will serve as paramedics in the United States, Canada and other North American countries.

“A 30-member team comprising of Neurosurgeons and other Anesthesiologists who are competent to put people to sleep before the surgeries, medical engineers, and facial therapists is coming”.

Supports

He disclosed that since its formation, the Korle Bu Neuroscience Foundation has immensely contributed towards improving the health sector of Liberia.

According to him, the foundation has lobbied and solicited series of medical materials for onward donation and subsequent use at the biggest referral hospital in the country.

Dr. Kolee added that a neuromicroscope worth more than US$100,000, an ultrasound machine, three world-class anesthesia machines which are not comparable to ones from China, C-Arm microscope, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to the paramedics, ambulances, among others have been donated to the JFK.

He emphasized that the foundation is also building the capacity of Liberian medical students wanting to full the huge gap of Neurosurgeons in the nation.

“We need someone to learn for example Neuro-Imaging. As I stand here, I have a fellowship for Canada for anybody who wants to go and do Neuro-Imaging. We are raising funds and awareness for that”.

“That ambulance you see over there (pointing)-that’s the second one and there is a third one coming sometimes next year. We will continue to build capacities but we have to work together as Liberians. We are almost 200 years old and we can’t continue to be the followers. That change should begin with all of us”.

Not government alone

He stated that though government is doing its best to ensure a resilient health system in Liberia, other well-meaning Liberians and philanthropic organizations operating in the country and abroad should also muster the courage by offering their widow’s mat to ensure the dispensation of adequate healthcare delivery across the country.

He noted that gone are the days when citizens and others will sit supinely and look up to government to do everything.

Also speaking, the Director of the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), Mr. Alex Dixon expressed thanks and appreciation to the team in Liberia, especially Dr. Doe and Dr. Kolee for the foundation’s immense contributions to the LNFS.

Dr. Doe, however, commended donor partners and others for their continuous support towards the teaching and developing of neurosurgery in Liberia.

He pointed out that the foundation is also “doing everything to make sure that neurosurgery patients” survive in Liberia.

It can be recalled that on April 6 of this year, the Korle Bu Neuroscience Foundation donated firefighting equipment, including several fire extinguishers, hoses, firefighting PPEs including gears, boots, oxygen tanks, among others to the LNFS at its station on Ashmun Street in Monrovia.

The consignment donated worth a little over US$300,000.

He disclosed that the two Liberian doctors have been very instrumental not only to save lives medically, but to also help prevent the loss of lives and properties across the country through fire outbreaks or incidents.

Mr. Dixon emphasized that the pair continues to make the relevant and necessary connections to beef up the strength of the LNFS to combat against fire logistically.

At the same time, several young Liberian medical students opting to be Neurosurgeons have pledged their steadfastness, commitment and dedication towards their studies.

They vowed to work and study harder to help address the scarcity of Neurosurgeons in the country.

“I want to encourage all doctors out there and even those who have the passion of coming into the medical field to take this as an opportunity to enroll into the Neurosurgery department because, Liberia needs more Neurosurgeons”, Student Dr. Bendu Kawala stated.

She continued: “It is good for us to come and fill in the gap to help our country save the lives of its citizens”.

“My father passed off right here at JFK because of the limitation of Neurosurgeon this year. There was only one Neurosurgeon and he was not on the scene and to see him was very difficult. He has over 300 surgeries to perform. It was very difficult for our family and this encouraged me to take this path”, student Johnson Nyemah stated.

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