The Liberian government has said that there are now ongoing efforts to restore the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center (JFKMC) to its “original status” before the civil war, which began on December 24, 1989 and ended in August 2003, when former President Charles Taylor went into exile.
The JFK hospital, once Liberia’s major referral health center for nearly three decades, is now more of a primary healthcare provider.
It lost its tertiary status due to the years of civil war and neglect by various regimes.
At the height of its full capacity in the 1980s, patients flew in from most parts of West Africa to seek medical attention in Liberia.
However, all is not lost. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced recently in her State of the Nation Address that efforts are now ongoing to restore the hospital to its original status.
If the President’s words are anything to go by, then it would mean restoring all of the medical center’s facilities, including the Catherine Mills Rehabilitation Center, which now lies dormant, a wasteland encroached on by land-grabbers.
The President didn’t explain in detail what efforts are ongoing in the restoration drive. However, on Monday, October 13, 2015, the JFK administration, along with authorities of the Ministry of Health, called a gathering to hold discussions on a five-year strategic plan, which is aimed at restoring the hospital to its prewar status. In that meeting, which was held at a local hotel, Health Minister Dr. Bernice Dahn announced that the hospital would need more than US$180 million to regain that status.
Dr. Dahn said they had met in order to “move JFK forward.” For those wondering why now since the nation has been at peace for more than a decade, this was her response: “Over the past 10 years, the Ministry of Health has been working on restoring and strengthening the primary health care services and that is because most of the people will seek health care first at the primary level before they utilize the tertiary level.”
The Health Minister stated that in order to make an impact in combating common illnesses, which can most times be easily prevented, they focused their attention on strengthening the primary healthcare level.
“Because of that today, Liberia has made some achievements. Liberia was among the first eight countries in sub-Sahara Africa that achieved MDG 4 three years before it ended [in 2015],” she stated.
Despite stating that her country has made some improvements in primary health care, she, however, said that the tertiary level now needs attention, adding: “It’s only on our continent Africa that our leaders go to another continent to seek healthcare [when they fall sick].” According to the Minister, this is because some African countries, such as Liberia, can’t afford the kind of health services and investment in the sector.
When one considers the paltry US$60 million allocated to the health sector in the National Budget, the Minister is right saying there is less investment in the sector.
She indicated that if Liberians want to see JFK where it ought to be, especially those who share the national ‘cake,’ they need to think “differently.”
Min. Dahn added that Liberians are not happy with the present look of JFK and so everyone needs to now think differently toward improving the hospital.