Liberia: JFK Dedicates Over US$300K Refurbished Pediatric Theater

First Lady Clar Marie Weah (in blue suit with mask) looks on as the anaestician lectures about the new equipment.

.... Provides first one week free of charge services

Liberia is enduring critical national development deficits, particular critical sectors like health.

However, there are indications that the country is gradually but signs, particularly in the health sector, seem to be promising with the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Medical Center (JFK) taking the lead in refurbishing and upgrading its systems, including the latest Pediatric Operation Theater valued at a little over US$300,000.

According to the Work Bank’s report of 2020 of Liberia’s healthcare delivery system and its challenges, the country’s hospitals and the health system in general cannot adequately respond to people’s daily health care needs, particularly children who continue to suffer and at times even die from many curable diseases. 

“The government of Liberia’s commitment to addressing systemic challenges in the health sector that contribute to high rates of maternal, adolescent and child deaths in the country,” said Opope Oyaka Tshivuila Matala, World Bank Task Team Leader, as he discussed the IFISH project launched then to help the Liberian government mitigate to an extent, some dire circumstances prevalent within the health sector.

It was against this backdrop that a ceremony was held yesterday at the Hospital’s main Lobby and present to grace the refurbished pediatric theater turning over occasion as keynote speaker was Clar Marie Weah, First Lady of Liberia.

“Today is an historic moment for not only are we dedicating the opening of this refurbished Operating Pediatric Theater, we are also welcoming a free five-day congenital surgery initiative for children, something that warms my heart deeply, demonstrating once again, a true Pro Poor Agenda initiative,” the Liberian First Lady said.

She declared that the John F. Kennedy Medical Center that in the past, stood as a beacon of hope for those seeking quality healthcare services in Liberia is back and this time with a refurbished Pediatric Operating Theater that is now open.

She noted that her husband, President George Weah remains committed to ensuring that the first pillar of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Deevelopment (PAPD), which has something to do with providing quality healthcare, succeeds.

Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft-focused organization, and Scottish Charity Kids Operating Room (KidsOR) partnered with JFK as the referral medical center embarked on the project and got it executed.

Smile Train Senior Program Manager West Africa Victoria Awazie underscored her organization’s commitment to enhancing quality surgical care reaching the most underserved communities saying: “The John F. Kennedy Medical Center receives on average three to five children with clefts in need of life-changing surgery, and an average of 15-20 children in need of surgeries for other pediatric surgical conditions every week.  Our highest priority in treating children is their safety,”

Awazie continued by saying that “The theater we have refurbished in partnership with KidsOR will ensure all children in need of safe, timely and quality surgery receive the highest standards of treatment.”

Kids Operating Room Regional Director for Africa Rosemary Mugwe was not in attendance but her data officer, Samuelyn Diggs delivered a message on her behalf.

“Children make up about 50 percent of the population in LMICs; as such, dedicated pediatric theaters like this one improve the health-care system and capacity for the provision of quality safe surgery for children. This theater is a huge milestone in meeting the needs of the children of Liberia and we couldn’t be prouder of this achievement,” Diggs said.

The Smile Train-KidsOR partnership is also supporting a pediatric surgery scholarship for the training and education of 40 pediatric surgeons across Africa in partnership with the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) and the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA).

For Dr. Jerry F. Brown, JFK, as Liberia’s premier public tertiary, referral and teaching hospital established on July 27, 1971, is addressing public health challenges and emergencies.

“Despite its long years and stellar contributions which were uninterrupted even at difficult times, notably the years of conflict, the 2014/2015 Ebola crisis and the COVID-19 of 2020, the Medical Center is striving to recover from the impacts of all of the challenges and crises that served as impediments in healthcare delivery,” Brown said.

He thanked Smile Train and KIDS OR for their generous donations that allowed the installation of the refurbished pediatric operation theater, noting further that the theater is of international standard.

“You can see everything a pediatric theater in Europe has right now in Liberia. Don’t go to newspaper offices or radio stations seeking help to take your children to other countries for treatment. Come to us first, and, if we are unable, we will advise you. But, for now, we can boast of having very high quality equipment to serve you,” he told Liberian parents.

He announced that for the first one week as of the day of the dedication (yesterday October 31), all services provided at the theater will be free of charge.

Dr. Nuwoe Howard represented the Minister of Health and assured JFK of the Ministry’s continuous and fullest support.