Liberia has done very well in the anti-Ebola fight. Except for one case which emerged in Caldwell last week—of a woman who unfortunately died—the entire country, thank God, is free of the deadly virus for now.
But we should never forget the prime reason the virus struck our three countries—Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia—with such devastating effect—over 10,000 dead. It was—and remains—the poor state of our healthcare delivery. Coupled with that is the failure of the three countries and many other parts of Africa to find a permanent solution to the sanitation crisis.
In the heat of the Ebola epidemic, at least three of our development partners, China, the United States and the European Union, pledged to assist Liberia in rebuilding and expanding its healthcare delivery system. We perceived this as an excellent opportunity for Liberia to seize immediately and go running with preparing a comprehensive roadmap that would include at least three components.
The first was the improvement and expansion of all our existing hospitals and health centers, including equipping, staffing and modernizing them to cope with current health and medical challenges.
The Health Ministry under Dr. Walter Gwenigale had already formulated a 10-year plan for hospital and health center improvement. We don’t know how far that plan has gone.
Among the challenges that plan was designed to address were maternity and childcare.
These two areas are among our most serious health challenges, which remain among the targets of the Millennium Development Goals that we should have accomplished by 2015—this year.
Sadly, just last Monday, MOH’s Assistant Minister for Curative Health Services, Dr. Saye Dahn Bawo, announced a gloomy statistic. He told a midwifery refresher training workshop for new and retired midwives that out of every 100,000 expectant mothers, more than 1000 of them will die.
This is a most heartbreaking step backward for us, for we remember that just two years ago, 2013, the United Nations praised Liberia for the rapidly declining rate of maternal mortality. The UN observed the figure in Liberia had dropped from 994 per 100,000 to 770. The latest report, however, indicates that maternal mortality had increased to 1,072!
We think this alone should prompt a wakeup call to GOL to take our healthcare delivery system more seriously than ever.
The second component in our healthcare delivery challenge is the building of hospitals and health centers where they do not exist—especially in River Gee, Grand Kru, Rivercess and Gbarpolu counties. There are few health centers in these remote counties, but no real hospitals. Each needs a well equipped and well staffed hospital. This would not only afford our mothers and children a better chance of survival; it would also have a positive impact on the general health of the country and place us in the position to repel, stop, wipeout any imminent epidemic threat.
The third component of this new healthcare delivery system is TRAINING. That training must begin with the modernizing of the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA), founded in the late 1940s. We suggest that TNIMA consider expanding its training to all counties. This would make it easier for locally trained nurses and parademics to be deployed right at home.
The next aspect of training is medical. The new healthcare delivery plan should take a serious look at the University of Liberia’s A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine. This college needs a complete overhall, with new books, equipment, training staffs and money to expose the students and faculty to other places around the country where they can get a firsthand assessment of the nation’s health and medical challenges.
Then there is the West African Post Graduate Medical College, which aims at training specialists. Here is a wonderful opportunity, already conceived by the West African Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, to train specialists locally instead of the far more expensive option of sending young medical doctors abroad for specialization.
We think this is a dynamic and futuristic (innovative, advanced) undertaking that could soon take on an international dimension, attracting medical students from various parts of West Africa and beyond.
We trust that GOL has already begun developing a comprehensive roadmap which the partners will take seriously, leading to the rebuilding of a topnotch (first class) healthcare delivery system.