Our Celebrated Ebola Nurse Stigmatized to Death: Whither Bernice Dahn and Liberia’s Healthcare System?

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How many Editorials has not this newspaper, the Daily Observer, written urging, pleading with, and begging the Liberian government to take seriously its post-Ebola medical challenge?

When, in the heat of the crisis, the international community, most especially our American, Chinese and European partners, came forward and pledged to work with Liberia in order to fast track the improvement of its tragically broken health and medical system, the Daily Observer seized the opportunity to pressure the government of Liberia (GOL), especially the health and medical authorities, to respond quickly to this timely and precious opportunity. We urged GOL to come forward with a comprehensive plan to take the fullest advantage of these friendly international pledges. We suggested the improvement of health and medical facilities throughout the country and even training, including helping the A.M. Dogliotti Medical College that had a crying need for many things.

But months and years passed and we saw no such plan; nor did we see any follow-up with the international partners regarding their pledges. Eventually the robust repair of our broken healthcare system became a forgotten dream!

Now here we are, finding ourselves faced yet again in the tragic international spotlight. How?

Time Magazine, one of the world’s most prestigious and influential media institutions, disclosed this week the ‘for nothing’ death of one of Liberia’s most celebrated Ebola fighters, Madam Salome Karwah Harris.

She was celebrated because, having saved 1000 lives from Ebola, Time, for the first time in its history, put a Liberian, Salome Karwah Harris, on its front cover as Person of the Year!

Her death, says Time, which broke the tragic news, is the result of Liberia’s “broken health system.”

That was the most terrible headline in the Daily Observer since the year began—printed on this Wednesday’s front page. Why do we say most terrible, since only last week we carried on our front page a story of six persons who died in an automobile accident at the Todee Junction?

We describe Salome’s death as most tragic because she became, in her brief lifespan, one of the most accomplished nurses in Liberian history. It was Salome who, during the Ebola crisis that hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in 2014, saved 1000 Ebola lives! She had risked her own life caring for Ebola patients in the heat of the crisis in Liberia, most especially in her native Margibi County, and also at the MSF Ebola Treatment Center at ELWA.

Yes, we have lost one of our most serious sisters, who could have saved another thousand lives had she lived.

She married her longtime partner, James Harris, himself, like Salome and her sister Josephine Manley, an Ebola survivor. That was when the virus ravaged our country, killing 4,089 people!

And we say she died ‘for nothing,’ because having given Caesarean birth to her son Solomon, she was discharged. Shortly thereafter she started convulsing and was rushed to a hospital that immediately declared her an Ebola patient and refused to treat her! The medical staff stood there and watched her die for lack of attention, while in the hospital!

Liberia’s “broken health system had failed her,” Time Magazine said.

What is Dr. Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s Health Minister’s response to this tragedy? How many tragic wake-up calls does this beleaguered (long-suffering) country, Liberia, need before we start taking our country and people seriously?

Or will Liberia NEVER become a serious country and Liberians a serious people?

No! We cannot be so pessimistic (cynical, gloomy). Let every Liberian pray and work HARDEST to expunge (remove) this negative syndrome in our national character. Let each and all of us start doing something to become a serious people. Don’t mind our government, which consistently fails to take itself and the rest of us seriously.

Just look at how we are approaching these all-important 2017 elections. More than 20 presidential candidates and counting, and people in high places are playing games with the succession and, worse yet, with the so-called “Code of Conduct” that could lead us to electoral chaos and instability.

Let us take the ball into our own hands and start becoming a serious people ourselves—in everything we think, say or do.

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