An investigation by the Independent and Authoritative Heritage Newspaper reveals that Gbarma District is in a state of health chaos with no major medical center for miles and mini clinics that rely mostly on unpaid volunteers. Gbarma District is the third-most populated district in Gbarpolu County with 15,972 inhabitants, according to the census conducted by the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) in 2008.
Residents and health workers told this writer that people are often referred to the Liberia Government Hospital (LGH) in Tubmanburg, Bomi County or to the Chief Jallalon Medical Center in Bopolu City for treatment depending on the severity of the case.
It takes approximately one hour drive from Gbarma to Tubmanburg and 1 hour and 30 minutes drive from Gbarma to Bopolu City depending on the road condition. "There is no health center in this district. We don't even have a complete clinic here. What we have here are all mini-clinics," said J. Mammoh Jah II, a Lab Assistant at the Gbarma Clinic.
"Because there is no clinic in the district that has the capacity to treat bigger cases, our patients are often sent to the hospital in Tubmanburg or Bopolu City ." When the weather is poor, which are most days during the rainy season, the roads can become impossible to navigate, putting the lives of nearly 16,000 people at risk.
In addition to the lack of a health center in the district, Mr. Jah also disclosed that there aren't enough drugs for the patients at the "mini clinics." He further disclosed that there are 28 health workers in the district. Of this number, only eight are on the Government of Liberia (GoL) payroll.
According to Mr. Jah, the other 20 including him, work on a voluntary basis, by their own will and pleasure. "I have worked here for over three years without salary," Mr. Jah said. "Others had worked here even before I came, and they are yet to get on government payroll. There are some Certified Midwives (CM), Dispensers and others who are not on the government payroll."
This writer, who visited other clinics around Gbarma, also observed the inadequate supply of medications. Health workers at the Gbarma Clinic said most of the clinics survive by help provided to them by the African Humanitarian Action (AHA).
"AHA gives us incentives at the end of every month. Had it not been for AHA, some of us, who are not payroll would have left from this clinic," said a nurse, who asked not to be named on grounds of not endangering her job.
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOSHW) could not provide any clarity on the issues raised by the citizens and health workers. At the Ministry, this reporter was told that the Public Affairs Department has been closed. The ministry referred the reporter to its Division of Health Promotion for information.
The Director of Health Promotion, however, offered no help. The reporter was advised that Mr. John Sumo, the director, had left for a meeting. Our reporter then called Mr. Sumo, who later referred him to the County Health Officer (CHO) only identified as Dr. Tucker. When contacted on his 0886516620 number, his phone rang without answer.