“Ebola Exposes Liberia’s Vulnerable Health System”

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A Liberian Physician and Epidemiologist, who contracted and survived the Ebola virus attack, has admitted that the disease came to expose to the world Liberia’s weak and vulnerable health system.

Dr. Philip Z. Ireland, a panelist during a one-day Liberia Civil Society Organizations Ebola Response Task Force Policy Dialogue in Monrovia yesterday, stressed that the healthcare delivery system of Liberia is one of the most vulnerable and most deplorable in the world.

Dr. Ireland, who contracted the disease from a patient he was treating, said Liberians are thinkers who can make positive changes in the health system and other sectors, but they are poorly treated.

He said the Liberian Government prefers to purchase vehicles costing about US$20,000 or more each, but fails to improve the health and education sectors that will benefit its citizens.

Sharing what he experienced during his illness, he described the ELWA nurses at the Ebola Treatment Unit as among the best nurses in Liberia who, for the sake of humanity, attend to patients in line with medical and nursing ethics.

He told the civil society organizations that nurses are seriously humiliated by their managers who go at lengths to discourage development partners from giving them more attractive salaries.

Because of the humiliation doctors and other professionals face in their line of work, many are defecting from their professions, seeking political positions, especially in the Senate and the House of Representatives, since political positions offer better salaries and other emoluments, declared Dr. Ireland.

The Liberian physician observed that such behavior on the part of Liberians in authority clearly shows that the society welcomes people who commit evil and treats good people with disdain.

Alluding to recent comments by one of Liberia’s top medical doctors, Vuyu K. Golakai, Dr. Ireland reiterated that the health system is centuries backward and will require infusing more resources into it and other sectors as well before any improvement can be realized.

Most people that died from Ebola met their demise because medical institutions took too long to attend to them in the absence of the emergency response team, Dr. Ireland charged.

He commended ordinary Liberians for taking the necessary precautions and adhering to health messages to prevent the disease.

He further emphasized the major roles the media and   international partners played in the fight against Ebola and expressed optimism that the disease was on its way out of the country.

The Liberia Civil Society Organizations Ebola Response Task Force is a group that monitors key stakeholders in the fight against Ebola.

It monitors media coverage on Ebola, how funds given by government and partners are expended.

In his presentation on stakeholders’ performances in the Ebola fight in the month of November, the Director of the Liberia Media Center, Att. Lamii Kpargoi, said they observed in counties monitored that most health facilities did not have personal protective equipment (PPEs) while about 60% of the health workers were not on salaries but given minimal incentives.

Atty. Kpargoi also acknowledged that in the 44 health facilities visited, there were limited beds for pregnant women and anti-malaria drugs were lacking.

He added that the government of Liberia allotted US$931,150 from the county development funds to be used in several counties including Gparpolu, Grand Gedeh and Montserrado, but those counties where the funds were used have not given any account.

Atty. Kpargoi also disclosed that US$283 million was reportedly disbursed by the international community towards the fight against Ebola, but civil society groups were still seeking to know how these funds were used.

Among media houses monitored for coverage of the Ebola Virus, the Liberia Media Center Director said the Daily Observer alone published about 78 stories followed by Front Page Africa and New Democrat.

For radio, he disclosed that Lux FM broadcast more than the rest of the stations monitored, giving 130 minutes of air time for Ebola messages.

Search for Common Ground Director, Oscar Bloh, in his welcome statement, said the dialogue is the first for the Civil Society Task Force and they are determined to monitor closely the Ebola fight to ensure transparency in spending and community approaches towards survivors.

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