The greatest lesson learnt from the devastating impacts of the Ebola crisis is the fragile state of the health sectors of the affected countries. In many communities in these countries, especially Liberia, health facilities and services are non-existent. If the Liberian government has been taught a good lesson by the EVD, it must now begin to take heed, which it seems it is beginning to do.
In order not to experience the level of embarrassment faced during the outbreak, the Liberian government has begun to hold talks with international community and other partners to help to build the health sector and not to rebuild because none existed.
In this regard, a high profile government official has disclosed that the government is embarking on plans to construct 15 referral hospitals across the country. Representative Saah Joseph, who is the Co-Chair on the House of Representatives’ Committee on Health, Gender and Children’s Affairs, said these hospitals will have to be on par with its regional neighbors in terms of infrastructure, equipment and human resources.
The Lawmaker said the level of devastation that the EVD had on the country is a clear manifestation of the sufferings of a majority of the citizens as a result of lack of infrastructure development including health facilities, roads and energy that would cater to their basic needs.
The national legislature needs to get more vigilant to ensure that the people’s needs are met. And one of the most convenient ways to begin this vigilance is by ensuring that modern referral hospitals are built in the 15 counties.
The Lawmaker spoke recently in Monrovia when he served as one of three panelists at a national conference on Ebola. The panelists who included US Center for Disease Control Deputy Mission head to Liberia, Dr. Desmond Williams, a Women’s group leader from Grand Bassa County, had gone to share their experiences and contributions during the height of the crisis and how their help had led to the impending victory against the virus.
He disclosed that the legislature, through his committee, working with the Executive, through the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been collaborating to make sure that this goal is achieve. “If any help is coming from the international community for Liberia’s recovery plans, it must be directed to projects like (referral hospitals in each county),” he said.
“We must tell our partners what we want. We must tell them our priorities. We are the ones that know the issues affecting us, because if we do not, these people [the partners] will go and do their reports and say we gave Liberia such and such amount, but the impacts will not be seen. So this is the time for us to make tangible worthy investments. We need to love our country,” Rep Joseph admonished.
Rep. Joseph, who claims he’s more a humanitarian than a politician, said it does not make sense for Liberians, especially the privileged ones to be trouping to neighboring countries (Ghana and Nigeria) to seek advanced medical treatment. “Why can’t we do it for ourselves here? What are those people doing that we cannot? It just takes patriotism and hard work. OK, the privileged ones are going abroad for treatment, but what about the majority of underprivileged, what becomes of them?” he asked.
“The worst affected in this crisis were those from the rural communities in these counties who, at certain points, had to be transported to Monrovia ETUs withholding centers before receiving medical attention. This is one of the worst moments in the history of our country and we must learn from it to right the wrongs of the past. And one of the ways we can do this is to construct these referral hospitals for our people.”
He also complained of the limited number of trained health workers in the country. Before building these hospitals, he said, government should be able to recruit locals from the various counties to send abroad for training.
“The personnel that are to work in referral hospitals must be locally recruited and sent abroad for training.” He said this will help in empowering the locals. “We cannot afford to continue to take health workers from Monrovia and carry them to those places. Let the sons and daughters of the locals also be empowered because they own the facilities and will know how best to take care of them.”
Rep. Joseph is the Founder and Administrator of First Responder, a local medical organization that was in the vanguard of the Ebola fight.
After initial success in Liberia, Rep. Joseph led a team of First Responders volunteers along with three of his ambulances into Sierra Leone where the infection rate of the virus was high. He also had considerable success in that country.
The Montserrado County lawmaker is now considered the newest prodigy on the block in the health sector as a result of the tremendous efforts he exerted in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease. Many, both locally and internationally, have hailed him for his efforts in bringing relief to the Liberian people.
“He is one of the major reasons why the evading killer (the EVD) has been contained,” a lady at the conference said.