Recent developments in Tappita, Nimba County, where the Jackson F. Doe Hospital has been reportedly ransacked and medical personnel assaulted, including its medical director, the only Liberian trained neurosurgeon in the country, who was reportedly handcuffed by members of an angry mob led by the Tappita city mayor, have claimed the attention of the Daily Observer.
According to the former secretary-general of the Liberia Medical Dental Association (LMDA) a group of medical doctors, nurses and relevant specialists, currently visiting Liberia from the United States to render humanitarian assistance to the people of Liberia, were, according to him, expected to conduct medical surgical operations while here.
Further, sources say the JFK and JFD Hospitals are the only two referral hospitals in Liberia with the expertise and facilities to conduct such operations. However, because the equipment at the JFK is either non-functional or is not available, an agreement was reached with the management of the Jackson F. Doe Hospital, under which its neurosurgical equipment and the neurosurgeon at the JFD Hospital and his cast of supporting technicians would have been temporarily transferred to Monrovia for the operations, following which the equipment including the medical personnel would have also been returned to the JFD Hospital.
But when the news of this arrangement broke, the Mayor of Tappita, according to reports immediately mobilized an angry mob that first proceeded to the airstrip and surrounded the small aircraft that came to take delivery of the equipment and airlift the doctor and staff. Next, they invaded the hospital and attacked the staff, handcuffed its medical director looted and ransacked the hospital.
All of this was based on rumors and false allegations. Most shocking but not surprising was the virtual inaction and non-response of the Police to the violence and there have since been no arrests of the perpetrators of this recent act of violence and thuggery which again appears to be going with virtual impunity.
And this is just what prompted the Doctor in his own words to air their concerns on radio — “IMPUNITY”. This newspaper has on several occasions expressed concerns about the impunity associated with such lawless behavior. In recent time, the nation has borne witness to several acts of violence especially political violence involving elements believed to be associated with this government or the ruling CDC.
And this newspaper has also observed the impunity attending these acts of violence.
While the violence against the doctors and the looting of the hospital must be condemned, yet it must be understood within a broader context. This includes the culture of impunity and official policy failures which placed such a modern facility in a highly underserved area, yes, but one which lacks adequate road connectivity that effectively prevents mass access to this public facility.
Admittedly such policy failure falls squarely at the feet of former President Sirleaf, under whose watch the Peoples Republic of China graciously consented to construct and equip the hospital.
The fact that the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, the nation’s largest referral hospital, lacks such equipment speaks volumes to the legacy in national healthcare delivery bequeathed to this government by its predecessor. Nevertheless, no excuses should be granted to the current leadership for not addressing the challenges it inherited.
Ostentatious spending on the part of current government officials in the midst of extreme hardships compounded by the what appears to be a general shortage or lack of drugs and other relevant health supplies including equipment at the nation’s various public health facilities are hard facts which Liberian doctors are finding difficult to digest, let alone the suffering public.
But the lack of leadership at the level of the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia is another troubling concerned raised by the doctors. For example, according to the former Secretary-General, the Chief Medical Officer of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. Francis Kateh whose appointment to the post, according to sources (names withheld), was influenced by his close family-blood ties to President Weah, has failed to address himself to generally felt concerns about the critical lack of basic medicines and supplies in public hospitals and, most recently, the violence perpetrated against the medical staff at the Jackson F. Doe Hospital by an angry mob led by the Tappita City Mayor.
Clearly, the nation is in deep economic and political crisis; the serious erosion in the respect and protection of human rights, a growing wave of violence and a corresponding decline in respect for the rule of law are indeed testamentary of signs that point to a return of the nation’s ugly past.
If, for example, a hospital protected under the Geneva Conventions can be invaded by an angry mob, doctors and medical workers physically assaulted while going about their duties and yet there is no official Police response suggest complicity, then such action could open the door to charges of war crimes and officials of this government, including direct perpetrators of the violence, can possibly be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
This also goes out to Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee who was captured on video leading a violent assault on the Logan Town headquarters of District 15 representative candidate Telia Urey. He is also said to have been involved in the flogging of Deputy Police Director Marvin Sackor, reportedly a former long-serving US soldier, who had gone to prevail on CDC supporters to refrain from marching on the Liberty Party headquarters but was instead ordered flogged allegedly by Jefferson Koijee.
What President Weah needs to realize is that, should he allow such excesses to go unchecked, he will convey the impression rightly or wrongly, that such violent behavior and action has his personal endorsement. And if it becomes clear to all and sundry, especially the international community, that this President is incapable of protecting his people from “himself” he could find himself in very dire straits.
Liberia is indeed a nation in deep crisis! May God help us all!