15 February 2019

Liberia: Drawing Lessons From the Death of 'Executive Horn' in Tragic Road Accident

The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to the untimely and tragic death of EPS officer Gabriel Wilson, otherwise known as Executive Horn, in a fatal motor accident on the Gbarnga highway.

His tragic death has drawn into sharp perspective pressing and commonly held concerns about road safety on our highways and the apparent ineffective Police response to a growing menace.

On numerous occasions, the public has expressed concern not only about over speeding by some drivers but also impromptu Police checkpoints mounted along the highway, checkpoints whose primary purpose is to extort money from drivers rather than to deter over-speeding or misuse of the roads.

Things have gone to the point where drivers are now seating two passengers in a front seat intended for a single individual. Commercial drivers often complain that because of the extortionist behavior of Police officers, they have to overcrowd their vehicles in order to recoup the fees which are paid to Police officers as bribes.

But aside from safety concerns, public attention is also drawn to the fact that the Phebe Hospital, a major referral hospital to which accident victims including the late Gabriel Wilson were taken, did not even have pain killers to treat the victims, let alone to perform critical lifesaving surgery.

Perhaps many do not realize that road accidents constitute a major health hazard and threat to life. And from all indications the nation's health system in its current state offers little hope of being able to adequately treat road accident victims.

This situation drew the attention of former Associate Justice M. Wilkins Wright, himself a victim in the recent accident, who commented that he was asked by Phebe hospital authorities to search for any medicine or drug store to purchase simple bandages and sutures which the hospital clearly lacked.

Justice Wright further observed that the hospital lacked even pain killers to administer to patients. Probably had the hospital been availed of the appropriate resources, the lives of Gabriel Wilson and Victoria Wlue could have been saved.

According to the Liberia National Police between 2007 and 2018, a total of 14,505 road accidents had been reported with Monstserrado, Margibi and Grand Bassa accounting for the highest among the 15 counties of Liberia.

The Police also reported that during the period, a total of 1,747 persons lost their lives while 9,181 persons were reported injured. Further, the Police reports that about 100 road accident cases are reported daily with at least one death occurring daily.

Given the above, it is clear, according to health experts, that road accidents constitute a major health hazard in Liberia and that the Police appear incapable of coming to grips with the situation.

What this means, therefore, is that ultimate reliance will have to be placed on a national health system that is weak, critically short of trained doctors and staff, severely underfunded and lacking adequate drugs and medicines to provide curative or palliative care.

Curative care, according to health experts, involves treatment in an effort to extend the patient's overall life span while; Palliative care refers to treatment that would improve the patient's quality of life.

The situation at the Phebe hospital appears no different from that of the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town where there is a critical shortage of drugs; or even the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, the nation's largest referral hospital.

Sources at that facility say that there is virtually no dialysis treatment unit, neither is there a functional dialysis machine in the entire hospital. Oxygen breathing units are also in short supply with reports suggesting that usually it is the patient with the deepest pocket who stands to benefit from the equipment.

All of this is obtaining when those in charge of public finances appear to have other priorities. For example, the Phebe Hospital and the CB Dunbar Hospital in Gbarnga are facing critical shortages of drugs, medicines and other relevant supplies.

Yet at the same time some members of the House of Representatives under the watch of Speaker Bhofal Chambers are accused of making unauthorized and illegal changes to the budget law in blatant contravention of the Public Finance Management law(PFM) and, instead, appropriating hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars to the private clinic of the wife of a Representative.

On a final note, what lessons can we draw from the untimely and tragic death of a dedicated public servant while in line of duty? This newspaper recalls that the late Gabriel Wilson was a dedicated and long serving member of the Special Security Service (SSS) now the Executive Protection Service (EPS).

Although he served three Presidents, Doe, Taylor and Sirleaf, blowing his traditional horn at public occasions, yet not once, according to Executive Mansion sources, did any of these leaders include Gabriel on any of their foreign travels. But Gabriel remained unfazed by any such concerns and pressed on with his duties.

There are many other dedicated and committed Liberians who like Gabriel Wilson served their country with dedication and commitment. This includes particularly former players of the Liberia National Team who gave of their best but are now languishing at the very bottom of society, eking out a precarious existence.

In this regard, the step taken by President Weah to personally visit the family of the late Gabriel Wilson and assure them of a befitting burial for Gabriel is commendable. However we urge him to not stop there but instead ensure that his family receives whatever benefits he stood entitled to for long years of service to his country.

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