Tension is said to be mounting in Tappita, Nimba County over the alleged relocation plan by the government of some valuable medical equipment from the Jackson Fiah Doe (JFD) Referral Hospital in Tappita to a hospital in Monrovia.
The aggrieved residents reportedly besieged the facility, thereby disrupting normal activities at the hospital.
On Thursday, August 1, 2019, some concerned citizens of Tapping City, reportedly besieged the hospital’s compound, threatening to resist any attempt by the government to ‘loot’ some of the valuable medical equipment, including the micro operation machine, which is used as the neurosurgical microscopic machine to operate those with brain and other problems relating to stroke afflicted patients.
While protesting against the removal of any of the medical equipment, some of the residents alleged that authorities at the Ministry of Health (MoH) had recently removed the hospital’s only CT Scan to Phebe Hospital in Suakoko, Bong County, under the pretext of returning it, but are yet to do so up to the writing of this story.
A CT (Computed Tomography) scanner makes use of computer-processed combinations of many X-ray measurements taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of specific areas of a scanned object, allowing the user to see inside the object without cutting.
The situation became volatile on Thursday, August 1, 2019 when the residents were informed that the MoH has sent its representatives on a helicopter to collect the hospital’s micro machine for brain surgery and move it to the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia.
According to eyewitnesses, some of of the residents, in their attempt to stop the exercise, went to the extent of blocking the only airstrip in Tappita, thus preventing the helicopter from flying with the equipment.
“The helicopter could not land until it left the air space without taking away any of the looted equipment,” one account informed the Daily Observer.
Residents outlined that prior to President George Weah’s inauguration, the new Coaster Bus that was assigned to hospital was immediately taken away and is yet to be returned.
Another account said that already, one CT Scanner was taken away few months ago, thereby leaving the hospital without any CT Scan at the moment.
“We will not allow the hospital to be looted in this form and manner, said a spokesperson of the protesting residents, Steve Dehmie.
Dehmie said that their action was not only predicated upon the removal of the neurosurgical microscope, “but series of unwholesome acts the new management of the hospital has allegedly been doing in recent times.”
He alleged that the hospital management has unilaterally been involved in removing some essential materials belonging to the facility to other health facilities elsewhere in the country, for which he told Supt. Cooper to and other local authorities to conduct full scale investigations into missing items from the hospital.
“We want immediate investigations into report of some missing items from the hospital for years now, before we are satisfied,” Dehmie said.
The hospital’s chief Medical officer, Dr. Saygbeb Vanyabah informed a community radio station that the relocation of those equipment are the result of the bad road, which makes it difficult for patients to reach the hospital in time, while sometimes they are in emergency condition.
However, Nimba County Superintendent David Dorr Cooper, has spoken against removing the hospital facilities without making any reference to his office, as the county’s chief administrator.
Supt. Cooper added that the county was not notified of the relocation of any equipment from the hospital.
In February this year, the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, informed the Daily Observer that the MRI Scan equipment brought to the hospital was in “not in working good condition and therefore needed to be scrapped. It is not clear whether it is the scrapping deal that is ongoing with the violent removal of some equipment from the facility, is what the residents have expressed indignation.”
Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson, has also condemned the act of removing equipment from the hospital, saying, “Monrovia is not Liberia,” and called on the government to respect the decentralization policy.
Senator Johnson’s statement was buttressed by Senator Thomas Grupee, when he questioned the motive behind the removal of some of the most needed hospital’s facilities. Grupee spoke on one of the community radio stations in the county.
In April, 2016, the Chief Medical Doctor at the time, Lawrence Sherman, spoke of the need for the government to replace some of the equipment, which he claimed were broken down, including the CT scanner that was donated to the hospital by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and has been in use since 2010.
He said following repeated repairs by Chinese expatriates, the equipment become non-functional. Dr. Sherman said with 14 medical doctors, the referral hospital receives patients from across Liberia and neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Calm has meanwhile returned to Tappita, following interventions by Supt. Cooper and his Development Superintendent, Railey Myers, along with local authorities on Friday.
The situation became tense when aggrieved residents stormed the premises of the hospital to resist the removal of a Neuro-Surgical Microscope donated by the Kole-Bu Neuroscience Foundation in Ghana years back.
In the aftermath of the confusion, Dr. Vanyanbah informed the aggrieved residents that the hospital’s administration received a communication from the MoH, requesting the neurosurgical microscope for surgeries at the JFK Hospital in Monrovia. He said a team of surgeons from Canada are in the country upon the invitation of the Liberia government to perform brain surgeries both at JFK and JFD hospitals.
However, according to him, due to the bad road condition, the surgeries cannot be performed in Tappita; something that necessitated the removal of the neurosurgical microscope from the Tappita hospital to Monrovia.
He said though the residents were not informed, the communication was read to the city mayor and the statutory superintendent.
Residents denied the allegation of taking the hospital’s chief medical director, Dr. Alvin Nah Doe, and beating on him.
The Jackson F. Doe Memorial Regional and Referral Hospital is a gift from the government and people of China to the government and people of Liberia. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf dedicated the more than US$30 million facility on February 12, 2011. Since then, the hospital has served more than 150,000 inhabitants across Liberia, including some foreign nationals.