-Saddened by the progressive worsening of the healthcare delivery system in the country
The Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA) has, with immediate effect, postponed its proposed regular national retreat slated to have taken place in the commercial city of Ganta, Nimba County.
LMDA’s action is in observance and consideration of the current global outbreak of Corona Virus, a deadly pandemic which has already hit Liberia with three confirmed cases so far.
In an opening statement at a press conference held at his office on Friday, March 20, Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinabah, President of the LMDA said that his organization is a law abiding and professional organization and it is interested in the welfare of its members and the general population.
He said when the health situation in the country is better and government advises for people to resume doing group related programs, the LMDA will converge and have their retreat.
It may be recalled that President George Weah on Monday, March 15, addressed the nation, calling for the cancellation of all public gatherings that involved more people and admonish everyone, including doctors to follow the preventive measures put in place as the health authorities take care of the few cases of the deadly Corona Virus already confirmed and those still under surveillance.
President Weah’s nation’s address came following a COVID-19 confirmed case involving Dr. Nathaniel Blamah, Executive Director of the Environmental Agency (EPA).
Dr. Ekyinabah said doctors are at the forefront of any health crises and, as such, they should be the first group of individuals to set several necessary examples in order for non-health practitioners to follow.
Reading the LMDA’s press statement, Dr. Moses Ziah, the assistant secretary general, said the organization is deeply concerned about Liberia yet going through another pandemic that might not only take away lives but break down several other systems, including the already struggling economy of the country.
“The LMDA is indeed troubled with the trend of the Coronavirus outbreak with at least confirmed cases now reported in the country and multiple possible contacts of those who have tested positive.
“Amid these circumstances surrounding the first reported case, it must therefore be considered that there is a significant risk of possible spread of the virus in the population and such risk must be acknowledged and measures must be employed at all levels to respond rapidly,” Dr. Ziah said.
The LMDA called on government through the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) to intensify the efforts in the fight against the deadly Coronavirus.
“LMDA acknowledges the efforts of national government thus far for the level of commitment towards the fight of the diseases and steps taken to reduce the spread of the disease by suspending academic activities, limiting the number of staff at public institutions, and regulating movements relative to international and national travel recommendations. These efforts are all in positive direction and we encourage the government to do more in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus,” he said.
The LMDA assistant secretary general said circumstances surrounding the primary case in Liberia has created many unanswered questions which suggest the need for a more robust surveillance system.
Progressive worsening healthcare delivery system
The Liberia Medical and Dental Association has blamed the many health crises reaching to higher levels on the poor healthcare system in the country.
“The fight against emerging and reemerging diseases such as the current Coronavirus pandemic is directly proportional to the resilience of the healthcare delivery system,” Dr. Ziah said. “Therefore, the LMDA notes the downward trend of the healthcare delivery system in Liberia and wishes to call on the attention of government to prioritize improving this sector of our country amid the global and national health crisis.”
He added: “Over the years, patients in Liberia, including babies, young children, pregnant women, productive youth and adults and the elderly have died from preventable and/or curable diseases.”
He said that the most distressing realization is that the deaths of people suffering from preventable or curable diseases occur at health facilities where there are qualified and competent professional health workers who have the knowledge and skills to save these patients but lack the needed drugs and equipment to do so.
“Of recent, deaths have even been reported at tertiary health facilities due to lack of life-saving drugs, oxygen therapy, as well as lack of electricity to perform emergency surgeries,” Dr. Ziah said.
He further noted: “As doctors, these are sources of utter frustration, which demotivate healthcare professionals.”
He noted that considering the prevalence of emerging and remerging epidemic diseases across different regions in the world, the need to strengthen the entire health sector of the country needs no over emphasis.
“LMDA therefore, encourages the government to consider regularizing as well as increasing budgetary allotment to health facilities across the country in order to enable them procure essential drugs and supplies that are crucial to saving the lives of our people,” he said.
He said while it is true that building a resilient healthcare system requires competent workforce, Liberia still falls below the required doctor-to-patients ratio.
“The World Health Organization’s doctor to patients ratio is one doctor to one thousand patients but sadly for Liberia, we are still far behind, even though there are some efforts directed at training doctors in specialized areas of service,” Ziah said.
The LMDA lauded government’s acceptance to avoid reducing, through the salary harmonization scheme, the already little salaries healthcare professionals are making.
LMDA is the umbrella organization for all doctors and dentists operating in Liberia.