Liberia: Scarce Resources Hurt Medical Regulator's Operations

Dr. Benetta Collins Andrews    

— Dr. Benetta Andrews advocates for increased budgetary support

The Chairperson of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC), Dr. Benetta Collins Andrews is appealing to the national government for increased budgetary support and an enabling environment to help make the health sector more vibrant. The LMDC'S appeal comes barely a week after US Ambassador Michael A McCarthy exposed the Government of Liberia's apparent withholding of budgeted funding for hospitals across the country.  

The Council was established by an act of the National Legislature in 2010 as an autonomous agency with the legal authority to ensure active regulation and compliance of medical practice in Liberia. In addition to its core-functions, the LMDC registers, licenses, adjudicates and sets standards for all health facilities,

practitioners and medical training institutions across the country and ensures compliance to standards.

In her inaugural statement, Dr. Andrews narrated that regulation of the Liberian health system remains a daunting task in the face of gross paucity of needed resources; noting that more needs to be done to sustain the gains already made.

"The body that is responsible to hold our health care providers in check as enshrined in the law is the Liberia Medical and Dental Council. Give us the tools and enabling environment to work and watch the health system change for the better without fear or favor. As there are usually other competing priorities, there are tendencies to always streamline the needed funding to the agencies such as ours", Dr. Andrews said. 

The LMDC boss informed stakeholders that increased budgetary and logistical support will upgrade the institution's policing duty of medical practice thereby fighting against unscrupulous folks taking advantage of the vulnerable people in substandard health facilities across the nation.

Till date, Liberia has over 900 registered healthcare institutions operating in urban and rural communities with little or no supervision due to years of glaring challenges particularly, inadequate financial support.

Dr. Andrews furthered, the council cannot do much to change the trajectory of what is unfolding nationwide due to what she termed as “serious logistical glitches to conduct periodic assessment of medical facilities.” 

She alarmed over the presence of "quack health workers coupled with the up-springing of substandard health facilities in the country”. 

"While the government is tasked with the huge responsibility of providing the needed resources to perform our duty, we as health workers also have the responsibility to provide optimal health care as mandated by our ethics", she noted. 

She used the occasion to thank the Government of Liberia and partners, for their continuous support towards the health sector, but stressed that more needs to be done to bridge the existing gaps.

Meanwhile, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Liberia Health Office Director Ms. Jessica Healey, recommended tackling the “over prescription of medication” for patients, while describing it as not only wasteful, but says, its risk is significant for antimicrobial resistance in the human body. 

If nothing is done urgently to mitigate this problem, according to her, it could trigger future challenges that could resort to the loss of lives and millions of dollars.

She underscored the need for “greater accountability” in the health system starting from the local level. 

“Without concrete structure of accountability, health workers, particularly in medication and supply chain will continue to enrich themselves at the detriment of patients”, Healey noted.

She charged the administration of Dr. Andrews to set professional standards to hold people accountable and proactively respond to claims from whistleblowers in the sector in an attempt to improve the health care delivery system of Liberia.

The USAID Liberia Health Office Director attached the importance of improved learning curriculum to ensure top quality medical providers in Liberia compete with their counterparts using the latest scientific research based knowledge.

Also speaking at the 4th induction ceremony, Health Minister, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah challenged the new leadership to be more robust in executing their statutory functions.

"Hold institutions accountable including the Ministry of Health to make sure that their facilities are up to date and ensure that medical facilities are duly registered and licensed before operating in our borders”, the Liberian Health Minister noted.

Dr. Jallah then pledged the ministry’s commitment to working with the LMDC in achieving its goals.