Public Mistrust, Fear of Stigmatization Slowing Patient Intake at Health Facilities in Ganta

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E & J Medical Center, Ganta, Nimba County

Administrators of a hospital and a clinic in Ganta, Nimba County have alluded to public mistrust which has plagued the health system for years as being the chief culprit responsible for people shying away health centers during this Coronavirus crisis as was experienced during the 2014 Ebola outbreak when people tended to avoid treatment centers for fear of stigmatization.

Jerry Klee of the Power House Clinic, Allen Zormonway of the Ganta United Methodist Hospital, and Victor Kpaiseh of the EJ&J Hospital in separate interviews concur that at such a time the health system is the decision maker that people should and must trust, but the manner in which the Coronavirus cases are being handled mainly in Nimba by the County Health Team does not prove to build public trust and bring credibility to the health system.

“I am a medical practitioner, but I don’t know how the county health team is getting the specimen it connects to Coronavirus and how the testing is done.  True, the virus is real and it exists as we can see its impact across the world on television, but the way it is handled here in Nimba does not get anyone to believe in the health system and it is driving patients away from us thus causing financial strangulation,” said PowerHouse Clinic administrator Jerry Klee.

Klee said some of those recorded in Nimba to have died of the virus were previously suffering from other diseases and always visiting clinics and hospitals prior to the coming of Coronavirus, but whenever anyone dies now, the county health team declares the person as a victim of Coronavirus.

Power House Clinic administrator Klee

“I don’t know whether this is a mistake from the testing center that is getting us to have the results we get, but it is difficult for me to understand how dead bodies will be tested in the nostril and mouth to get the kind of result you want for this kind of virus we are talking about,” Klee wondered.

Ganta United Methodist Hospital Administrator, Allen Zormonway openly stated, “Coronavirus is real as we can see it killing in other countries that have a sophisticated health system, but the way some health workers are doing the work is creating mistrust.”

Citing a reference, Mr. Zormonway said it was unprofessional for the health authority in Tappita to turn over body confirmed to be of Coronavirus to the parents.  “Breaching professionalism causes people to question credibility, and we as health professionals we are the authority at this time.”

The way of handling Coronavirus cases in Nimba has created fear in the public such that many people are staying away from clinics and hospital nowadays.

“Before I used to receive more patients in a day at the clinic here, but now we sometimes receive only two or three, and this brought serious financial constraints to us such that we were left with no other alternative but to downsize some staff because we do not have the cash to pay them,” said Jerry Klee of Power House Clinic.

Mr. Klee further noted that the lockdown is grossly contributing to the low patient intake because businesses are going slowly and many people do not have money to visit the clinic for medication.  Additionally, the Power House Administrator said people are afraid of stigma and therefore do not want to visit hospitals and clinics for fear of being pronounced Coronavirus positive.

Victor Kpaiseh, Chief Administrator of EJ&J Hospital said “We receive patients now only on an emergency basis.  The patient load has dropped and it is bringing a serious financial problem to us.  But the good thing is we have dedicated staff that reason with us and can understand the situation as we too continue to be fair to them.”

Kpaiseh said the fear of people coming to the hospital is traced to stigma because they do not want to be called Coronavirus patients.  His hospital was recorded by the Nimba County Health Team two weeks ago as a place where a lady reportedly died of Coronavirus, but pronouncement by the county health team was challenged by family members and they contended that if it were true that the 50-year old woman died of the virus, they would be exposed to it because the body was turned over to them for burial.

The family was given a death certificate indicating different health conditions that led to the death of the woman, but the NCHT came after a few days to tell the family that the woman died of the virus.

“We were not even told they were taking specimen, but after turning the body to us and we had buried it, they came again to say the woman had the virus,” said a contentious family member on a local radio.

The Ganta Hospital is one of the largest medical facilities in Nimba County that receives patients daily and throughout the night hours.  At the end of a month the hospital sometimes records 2,500 patients, but this number has drastically dropped according to the Record Department.  “For this April we received 1,475 patients below the huge number we used to receive,” said John Vargbay, head of the Record Department.

The Administrator, Allen Zormonway told the Daily Observer that after a prolonged period of staying away, patients began coming to the hospital on May 4.  “Since then it was today, May 4, I saw a good number of patients at the hospital, and most of them are pregnant women,” Mr. Zormonway said.

He, like Klee, said the low patient intake has reduced the financial strength of the entity about seventy-five percent.  However, he said the Liberian Government has continued to supply drugs to the entity through the National Drugs Service (NDS)  and made part payment of the subsidy of US$200,000 is set in the national budget for the hospital.

“The government itself has constraints that we cannot hold it responsible for delay in payment of subsidy it has, but it is at least trying hard to settle some of its obligations.  It was the part payment of the subsidy that got us to pay salaries for last month.  Sometimes we want things done fast, but how we think is not the reality on the ground,” said Zormonway.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Three weeks ago, a video showing some people storming a quarantine center in Ganta to allegedly release few kept in isolation went viral. Question: was it motivated by “Public Mistrust, Fear of Stigmatization…? For heaven’s sake, folks, whether in West Point or wherever, rash reactions to COVID-19 guidelines that put the nation at risk should be vehemently and widely condemned. Today, public mistrust is as global as the pandemic itself, so that shouldn’t encourage inexcusable risky behaviors.

    More especially, after public health experts abroad have predicted that by July when Coronavirus should dip in advanced countries, it would peak around poorer countries. Mind you, Ebola was different. American soldiers won’t come to help with COVID-19 since their “research scientists didn’t doctor it at labs located in the Mano River Union basin” as observed in 2014 by American Francis A. Boyle, the author of the UN anti-biological warfare treaty, and a best seller “Biowarfare Terrorism”.

    We Liberians have taken irresponsible behaviors to dizzying heights, and if Italy was devastated by this virus, one can’t imagine what awaits any tomfoolery. With other shameless regimes in Sierra Leone, and Guinea, we divided the reportedly USD $3 billion Obama’s administration gave as bribes for about 11, 000 deaths. In exasperation about the victims, Obama warned against “risky experiments” by US research institutions in poor countries. What happened to our share; was it invested in our healthcare system, that’s the question?

  2. Mr. Moses,
    Your information regarding some people breaking into quarantine center in Ganta is erroneous and without basis. At no time have the people of Ganta engage in such behavior as stated by you. As a man with vast investigative knowledge over the years, you should at least do your due diligence to authenticate your story before publishing your information. It’s obvious that some of you will jump at opportunities such as this to tarnish the name and reputation of Nimba County and its citizens. However, Nimbaians will always remain resolute and unambiguous in defending and protecting its integrity at all times. We will never be deterred by anyone.

    The truth of this matter is that, several community residents in Ganta rejected a plan by Nimba County officials to turn their community school into a quarantine center. Their actions were predicated on facts that their community school was not intended as a medical facility and therefore, could not be used as a health center to quarantine corona-virus persons. Additionally, their only source of drinking water in this area is located on the campus of this school, earmarked to be used as a quarantine center. And so, they were concerned about the health and safety of residents in these communities and the impact of this deadly virus in themselves and their children.

    Besides, the County officials failed to engage residents of these communities in question to solicit their inputs but insisted on imposing their political will on the people without the people’s consent. You will also be amazed to know that the Methodist establishment in Ganta City offered a facility to the County officials to be used as a quarantine center, but the County officials rejected and ignored that offer and insisted on using this school, which is located in the heart of several communities as a quarantine center. The question is, what could be the rationale for this decision by the County officials?

    Now, given the information you mentioned in your opinion regarding the EJ&J Hospital, also located in the City of Ganta, and heavily financed by the Government of Liberia, this facility could be a suitable location to be used by the County officials for corona-virus quarantine persons. The facility offered by the Methodist could also be used for such an intended purpose. It’s however, mind-boggling why these County officials decided to leave these two facilities and attempting to endanger the health and safety of ordinary residents, thereby creating unwarranted friction between citizens and County officials?

  3. A correction to the last comment in the second paragraph should have read: “And so, they were concerned about the health and safety of residents in these communities and the impact of this deadly virus on themselves and their children.”

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