The medical profession in Liberia and the nation as a whole have again been viciously hit by Ebola. The John F. Kennedy Medical Center announced last weekend that Dr. Thomas Scotland on Saturday succumbed to Ebola in the JFK’s Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). This brings to six the number of medical doctors we have lost to Ebola, in a nation already severely doctor-starved.
First we lost Dr. Sam Mutooro Muhumuza, the Ugandan physician, in July, and on the 26th of that month, our Independence Day, Dr. Sam Brisbane, a physician with over 40 years of experience. Next Ebola snatched Dr. Abraham Borbor, another long-serving internist and subsequently a very promising fourth year medical student, Malikee Siryon, who died last week.
Still on a rampage, the deadly virus’ next casualty was Dr. John Dada, a Ugandan-born intern at the Obs and Gyns section of the JFK, who died at the weekend. He studied at the University of Liberia’s A.M. Doggliotti College of Medicine, remained here and became a naturalized Liberian.
With another ferocious blow, Ebola snuffed out the life of Dr. Scotland who, like all the others, gave his life to stop the virus and care for its suffering victims. Worse still, Dr. Scotland leaves behind a young, pregnant widow and four children, who are now added to the growing list of Ebola orphans.
In last Friday’s editorial, we called attention to the growing number of orphans or children who are suffering displacement because of their infected parents. The official number to date is 668. It is now increased by five, including the late Dr. Scotland’s four and an unborn child.
We said in that editorial that all of us are responsible for these children, but most especially the government of Liberia (GOL) through its Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Fortunately, an informed source at the Task Force office on 18th Street disclosed that the SOS Hospital in Congo Town, Monrovia has agreed to care for the orphans, which is very good news. We hope that SOS will be able to receive as many of the orphans as possible, and give these children comfort and hope.
In the long term, a strategy is needed to look after all orphans in Liberia.
It is a good thing that the GOL, according to a Task Force source, is now talking to its development partners about the post-Ebola era. Both GOL and the partners are developing a strategy to strengthen Liberia’s healthcare delivery system, whose serious weaknesses the Ebola crisis has glaringly exposed. President Barrack Obama himself has made this point.
The GOL, through the Ministry of Health, the Anti-Ebola Task Force, the University of Liberia, the Liberia Medical and Dental Association and the Post Graduate Medical College, should hold consultations to determine the best possible ways to strengthen our healthcare delivery system. This means improving, and capacitating all existing hospitals, bringing them up to standard and providing all the necessary facilities and equipment to make them fully functional.
In the counties without hospitals, such as River Cess, River Gee, Grand Kru and Gbarpolu, new hospitals should be built and fully staffed and equipped. The GOL and its partners are urged to develop a long-term strategy to revive and develop Liberia’s older hospitals and build new ones where there are none as a priority and without delay.
With the paucity of doctors, specialists and health care providers now further decimated by Ebola deaths, staffing will be another major challenge to strengthening our healthcare delivery system. The GOL should make the best possible use of the outpouring of international goodwill from the partners to attract others to join the remaining ranks of medical practitioners and health care givers of Liberia with full scholarships for their training, better salaries and benefits commensurate with the demands and risks of those jobs as well as conducive working environments and conditions of service.
An important part of this strategy is to expand and further develop the UL’s Medical College to train more doctors; and the newly established Post Graduate College of Medicine to train more specialists. Meanwhile, the partners should be approached to help train more specialists in their universities, to buttress the work of our Post Graduate College.
The partners should also be engaged to help Liberia acquire much needed dialysis machines, to help treat people with kidney and related diseases; as well as other sophisticated medical and dental equipment the lack of which is a death sentence to those unable to seek medical care abroad. This would be a big boost to our healthcare delivery.