President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced last night that due to the weaknesses in the country’s healthcare services exposed at the height of the Ebola outbreak, the government is embarking on a ten-year program to develop the nation’s healthcare system.
The program’s areas of concentration will be to train health care professionals, improve and expand services at primary and secondary healthcare centers, upgrade county hospitals and establish three regional hospitals in the country.
In a nationwide radio address reviewing the journey so far since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease President Sirleaf said the government will emphasize the repositioning of JFK to meet its envisioned role as a national referral center.
She said that a year ago, “we were invaded by an enemy we did not know and were not prepared to confront and which caused the deaths of many of our fellow citizens and robbed many more of their livelihoods.”
President Sirleaf explained that the Ebola invasion overwhelmed “our recovering health care system and threatened to reverse our economic recovery gains. There were terrifying projections of more deaths and the possible collapse of the Liberian State.”
In response to those negative projections, President Sirleaf reminded Liberians that “I asked you to join in efforts to fight back. I counted on you to stand up with me in combating the disease and facing down the horrifying projections.”
“Across superficial and perhaps historic divisions of our nation, we stood together. We came together – Christians and Muslims, youths and elders, religious, political, traditional and community leaders, ordinary folks, teachers and students, drivers and passengers, public and private enterprises – we who have felt compelled to be suspicious of each other came to appreciate the commonality of our fate.
“Each, especially our brave health care workers, played important roles with some going beyond the requirements of their duties to assist and save the lives of their countrymen and women.”
She noted with appreciation when Liberians adapted to new behaviors, some of which, she said, “ran counter to long-held traditional beliefs and religious practices. By the end of the year – on December 31, 2014 – across the country, we met an important goal. We reported no new case on that day confirming to ourselves and to the world that it is really possible to fight this disease and to eliminate it from our country, and from our region.”
President Sirleaf pointed out that “We went on to do better. On March 5, we had counted at least 28 days – only 14 short of the required 42 – without a new case.
“We did this because of your trust and confidence as well as your vigilance and fortitude. I thank all of you for this, and especially for standing with me, even as our situation at one point seemed hopeless. This experience should convince all of us that when we face common problems together, like we confronted Ebola, together, we will always overcome the challenges – we will always prevail.”
She regretted that Liberia suffered a small setback in its progress to being declared Ebola free when one person tested positive. “Sadly, she has passed away. We continue to grieve with all those who have lost loved ones and celebrate all of our survivors. Because to date, there have been no new cases reported, and we are continuing our vigorous contact tracing and support for all those under observation, we have started a new countdown,” President Sirleaf indicated.
She however said with assurance, “I am confident that the Incidence Management System team which was set up to coordinate our response and their local and international partners have the experience and expertise to contain and bring this outbreak to an end.”
Madam Sirleaf conceded, “We continue to learn and may still not know everything about this virus. I therefore call on all of you to continue to play your role – to adhere seriously to all of the preventive measures with which we are all very familiar, and to remain vigilant.”
The Chief Executive assured Liberians that she would remain true to “our cherished ideals. I therefore ask for your continued trust and confidence to help me get these important things done.
“I ask for the same unity of purpose across the useful diversities of our government and our society – the diversities which improves governance and make our society stronger. I ask all of you for the same spirit of community ownership and collective urgency as we embark on the road for Post-Ebola Recovery.”