-Says Dr. Jefferson Sibley
The Phebe referral hospital in Suakoko, Bong County, in Central Liberia is in serious financial crisis as the hospital lacks essential drugs to cater to its many patients, the medical director, Dr. Jefferson Sibley has confirmed.
Dr. Sibley told radio ELBC on Friday, November 23, that the government provides over 80 percent of the hospital’s running cost, but said that as it relates to the provision of goods and services, the government is slow in responding to the request of the hospital.
“The government helps with personnel cost, but for goods and services, the government is slow,” Dr. Sibley said.
He said that as a result of the dwindling supply of goods and services to Phebe, the hospital has incurred over US$300,000 debt to its vendors, and the vendors have refused to supply the hospital with drugs and other essential materials.
He said that the hospital lacks drugs, fuel to run the machine, food for patients and other vital materials that would make the facility run effectively.
In its Wednesday, November 21, edition with the caption, “97 Yr-Old Phebe Hospital Nears Collapse,” this newspaper reported that Dr. Sibley said the hospital may close its doors to the public due to “the lack of sufficient budgetary support to run the hospital.”
However, on Thursday, November 22, on ELBC, an official of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning refuted the story, and said the government is providing the required financial support to the hospital.
The official added, “in 2016/2017 fiscal year, Phebe received approximately US$2 million as well as in the 2017/2018 budget period, the hospital obtained US$ 2.0 million, and in the 2018/2019 national budget, the hospital got US$ 1.98 million. So, there is no need for the administration to cry foul for limited support.”
Dr. Sibley specified that the referral hospital will need US$3 million to successfully operate, noting, “Can you imagine electricity power is switched off before 10:00 p.m., which is not unique to any hospital like Phebe.”
“Without electricity, we will not be able to run this hospital and running such an institution on a generator is cost intensive,” Dr. Sibley said.
“Patients who come to the hospital are normally given prescriptions to buy drugs, because of the prevailing situation. The hospital serves hundreds of patients on a daily basis, most of whom are from the low-income support background,” Dr. Sibley said.
Dr. Sibley said the hospital uses 6,000 gallons of fuel every month, which is causing the administration a huge sum of money, adding, “because of this, we are indebted to our vendors that do not want to trust us any more.”
He said money allotted to the hospital in the national budget is sliced to support the running of the School of Nursing, while the hospital spent pretty close to US$800,000 to maintain the school alone per year.
As for the Nursing School, Sibley said that a few years ago, the government mandated the administration of the hospital to run the school free of charge with the sole purpose to bridge the human resource gap that existed in the health sector.
“And during those years, things went fine with support from partners, but right now the partners that were supporting the program have had funding fatigue and the funding of this school is squarely in the hands of the government which is not adequate,” he said.
The Phebe Hospital, opened in 1921, was built by a Christian institution, the Lutheran Church. The Phebe School of Nursing was the first nursing school in the country. In spite of being looted during the civil-war, Phebe Hospital never stopped offering services during the civil crisis, “but this particular situation is more than the war, because patients are asked to buy drugs outside the hospital and sometimes they don’t find it; it is serious,” Dr. Sibley added.