Liberia: The Liberian Public Radio and The African Star, Online News Reporting Magazine

analysis

The healthcare delivery system in Liberia challenges the sanity of anyone who expects that a visit to a medical facility should be routine and meet acceptable standards.

The African Star and Liberia Public Radio are appalled at Government's wanton and continuing neglect of Liberia's national health care delivery system; more so because the situation borders on conspiracy and accessory to the omission of providing life-saving drugs and professional medical services to citizens.

The Ebola Pandemic of 2014 - 2016 needlessly killed over 4,000 citizens and laid bare the national health care delivery system which, itself, was on "life-support". But for international intervention and assistance, the disease would have felled more citizens.

Fast forward to 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic is another global challenge which has literally trapped Liberians in a "hell-hole of inadequate national healthcare". The Government has been caught flat-footed and is unable to offer a coherent national plan to deal with a pandemic which is in the same league as Ebola. Regular updates from the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) on confirmed cases of COVID-19 offer a gradual increase and spread of the disease.

In the last two weeks, a prominent lawmaker Representative J. NagbeSloh sought treatment for a medical condition at the main referral and Teaching Hospital known as John F. Kennedy in Monrovia. Sadly and due to lack of adequate services, we lost Representative Sloh.

The demise of another lawmaker, Representative Mouna Youngblood has just been announced, although she was seeking treatment abroad because of inadequate health facility in Liberia.

Scores of ordinary citizens who visit Government run facilities in the country can expect no acceptable treatment and even officials of Government and well-to-do individuals have second thoughts about going for treatment at these Government owned facilities.

Liberian Government Hospital In Buchanan, Grand Bassa County-Liberia

Indeed, it is important to emphasize that the Coronavirus pandemic has further exposed the weaknesses of the Liberian public health sector that continues to suffer from years of neglect and disdain stretching from the country's independence as a country of freed slaves. The crippling health care system in the oldest West African nation continues to witness inadequate budgetary support to this time.

For example, $297 million USD or 56.5 percent of the country $526.9 million USD reflected in the 2019/2020 annual budget was committed to paying salaries to public sector (government) officials and employees,most of whom pack the various ministries and agencies and who have no real job descriptions, performance evaluation or outcome. The country's Healthcare system received $80 million USD or 15 percent of the budget. The bottom-line is that citizens have no confidence in Liberia's healthcare system. Even the President of Liberia and most of the country's public officials would not subject themselves for treatment at Government run hospitals in Monrovia or elsewhere in the country.

Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital Government Hospital InTarpeta, Nimba County

For instance, this week the House of Representatives grilled the Chief Administrator of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center during an emergency hearing where the lawmakers vented their anger against the authorities of the hospital for the inhumane manner in which the pictures of the last hours of the late Representative Jay NagbeSloh were circulated on social media.

However, what the Legislators failed to discuss is their own role in exposing Liberians and residents of the country to a health care system that is neglected at the comfort of their huge salaries and benefits that they shamelessly parade without consideration for the healthcare needs of the country.

More importantly, the coronavirus pandemic closed the doors to Liberian government officials, functionaries, apologists, and families who benefit from advanced healthcare outside the borders of Liberia and this must awaken our resolve as a country to place urgent attention on the country'shealthcare system.

Recommendations:

African Star and Liberia Public Radio offer the following recommendations:

- Review and adjust national health care laws to fast track and attract private sector investment in a symbiotic partnership with the Government. Prioritize and fund mobile clinics to provide basic care at the local levels at affordable fees.

- The Government must develop an initial 10-year robust plan to improve care, prevent diseases and their complications. This will require massive capital and human resource investments with the involvement of the private sector.

- Develop a blueprint to attract international investmentjn the sector, and speed up training of healthcare professionals by offering tuition-free scholarships in the sector and appoint a council of eminent, resourceful, and respectable persons to lead the national dialogue, and promotion of a national healthcare agenda with timelines, deliverables and built-in evaluation for the next 10 years.

- We are convinced that the Liberian health care sector is in crisis. We are also certain that overhauling the healthcare delivery system in Liberia will require a deliberate and sustained effort, partnership, investment, and leadership and this is possible only when we have a vision and motivated citizenry.

We challenge the Weah leadership, including the National Legislature, to move beyond criticizing what is not currently obtaining at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center and to muster the courage to fix the deplorable conditions that swarm the West African nation's healthcare system. The African Star and Liberia Public Radio stand ready to support this effort to overhaul Liberia's healthcare delivery system so that there is not another preventable suffering or death.

This News Commentary is a collaboration between African Star and Liberia Public Radio.

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