Daily Observer has credibly learned that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf now has at least three names on her desk pending her final choice as the next Minister of Health.
The three names, according to a source who was embedded with a committee that scouted for the replacement of outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Walter Traub Gwenigale, are Dr. Robert Kpoto, Dr. Vuyu Golakai and Dr. Francis Kateh.
Dr. Gwenigale, who joined President Sirleaf’s Cabinet in 2006, submitted his request for retirement to President Sirleaf on November 3, 2014, asking for her permission for him to retire in February 2015, which is also the month in which he takes his deferred annual leave. He also turns 80 this February.
In a special address to the nation November 16, President Sirleaf nominated Mr. George K. Werner as Liberia’s next Minister of Health with, but he was subsequently rejected by the Liberian Senate when he went for confirmation.
Since Mr. Werner’s rejection by the Senate, the President is yet to submit another name to the Senate for confirmation.
Our Health Correspondent takes a look at the three, one of whom will have the blessing of the President for the post since she has the appointing power. The President also has the prerogative to give the post to anyone other than a medical doctor, a choice the Senate confirmation committee did not take kindly in the case of Mr. Werner, who is not a medical doctor.
Dr. Vuyu Kanda Golakai
Dr. Golakai is presently the Dean of the University of Liberia’s A. M. Diogliotti Medical College. He is probably the only Liberian Medical Doctor, who does not mince his words when he is speaking at any forum. He is very critical of this regime’s handling of the health sector.
Dr. Golakai joined his Cuttington classmate, Dr. Emmet Dennis, president of the UL, few years ago to help run the institution that was failing and needed to be revived.
Dr. Golakai, a UL vice president for Health Sciences, has demonstrated his extraordinary surgical talent across the African continent, including his native Liberia, Togo, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa; as well as Israel and Europe.
He once described the health sector under this regime as an “18th century health system” with Liberians only surviving through goodwill gesture of foreign partners.
He had stressed in a power point presentation during Liberia’s observation of the 21st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that, for people to feel the impact of a good healthcare system, government needs to generate a condition that will bring to realization such impact. He noted that availability of healthcare, accessibility, acceptability and quality make the impact of healthcare felt.
Dr. Golakai, who is a fearless and outspoken Liberian medical doctor has always said the health system of Liberia has remained vulnerable as a result of failure and unfairness on the part of government to invest therein.
At the UDHR celebration he asked, “Do you know why Ebola continues to be present in Monrovia? It is because Monrovia is very dirty with garbage and human waste spread all over. You do not expect the ‘city’ to be free of disease when dirt is all over.”
He had also blamed the bad health system on the government and the system that has been created, noting that because people are not punished for their wrong doing, they take advantage of it to continuously exhibit unethical behavior.
Dr. Robert Kpoto
Dr. Robert Kpoto is the nation’s only in-country Orthopedic Surgeon (bone doctor). He once ran on the presidential ticket of Union of Liberian Democrats (ULD) in the October 11, 2005 presidential and general elections, which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won. He placed 19th out of 22 candidates and received 0.4 percent of the vote.
Dr. Kpoto, who is a businessman running a medical insurance company, once served as Chief Medical Officer of Liberia.
He is a former Chairman of the Liberian Medical and Dental Council (LMDC).
A young medical doctor who asked not to be named, described Dr. Kpoto as being “passionate for the adequate training of Liberian doctors.”
“He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Great Britain, a Fellow of the College of Surgeons, West Africa and has very good organizational skills,” this doctor told our Health Correspondent.
Sometime last year, Dr. Kpoto came to the rescue of outgoing Health Minister, Dr. Gwenigale. He had told the Senators, when they got angry with Dr. Gwenigale and threatened him with “contempt”, that his client’s (Dr. Gwenigale) blood pressure had increased to 197/90, and that he needed rest and medication for 14 days and therefore could not appear for a hearing before that body. The Senators eventually decided to just let the matter to lay low and had written the President asking her to retire him.
Dr. Francis Kateh
Dr. Kateh, the youngest of the three, was born on July 12, 1965 in Maryland County. He is a physician and an academician. He presently serves as Deputy National Incident Manager with responsibilities over all medical interventions of the Ebola Response. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) manages Liberia’s Ebola response.
He is also presently the Medical Director/CEO for the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita, Nimba County. The hospital, according to another young Medical Doctor, has remained stable under the “able leadership of Dr. Kateh.”
Kateh began his doctoral training in medicine when he volunteered at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital. He obtained his doctoral degree in Medicine from the Spartan University School of Medicine, USA.
He has also earned a Master’s of Health Administration from the Governors State University, University Park, IL.
Being touched by the devastation in New Orleans, due to Hurricane Katrina, Kateh decided to pursue a Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security with emphasis in Public Health Disaster Preparedness, which he completed in May, 2008.