The Ganta Methodist Hospital is in good company. It has three prominent people to listen to and answer its cries, the latest of which is payment of their salary arrears. There are other constraints, too, including the lack of funding to keep some of its medical departments open.
Global Ministry, a donor group that helps the hospital with funding, is itself short on cash and has suggested that the hospital shutdown some of its departments.
But being one of the two leading hospitals in heavily populated Nimba County, the other being the Chinese-built Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tappita, shutting down some medical departments at Ganta would be wrong. It would lead to a drastic cut in the services which the hospital has rendered to Nimbaians, travelers through Nimba and people from neighboring Guinea since the late 1920s, when Dr. George Way Harley started Ganta Mission’s educational, medical and religious work.
Part of the Harvard Medical Expedition to Liberia in 1926, Dr. Harley, a cultural, medical and engineering genius, fell in love with Nimba and its people and never left. He is buried on the Ganta Mission campus, where he constructed a rock-designed church, built the mission and hospital and started work among Nimba’s lepers. It was also Dr.
Harley who brought the first automobile to Nimba County, transported in boxes across the then bridgeless St. John River, and assembled it for the Nimba people to see the first motor car running.
We pray that the people in whose good company Ganta Hospital exists will do something quick to fix its financial emergency.
And who are they? The first Dr. Wilfred Boayue, a brilliant son of Nimba’s eminent Boayue family, who himself served as medical director at the Ganta Methodist Hospital. But in the mid-1970s President William R. Tolbert, Jr. pulled him away to serve as Deputy Minister of Health along with Health Minister Oliver Bright. Dr. Boayue is back in Liberia after a long sojourn abroad working with the World Health Organization. Today he is Commissioner of the National AIDS Commission-Liberia.
Dr. Boayue could definitely help Ganta Hospital, if no more than by encouraging the intervention of the two other prominent individuals to whom we earlier referred. And who are these?
The first is Dr. Walter Gweingale, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, who is quite familiar with the financial plight of missionary hospitals. After returning in 1973 from medical school with his qualification in surgery, financed by the
Lutheran churches in America and Liberia, Walter found the Lutheran Phebe Hospital in Suacoco bankrupt and on the verge of closure! He immediately got busy, and made enough noise to get the attention of President Tolbert. The
President, who ran big rubber and other farms in Bong County and fluently spoke the Bong people’s language, Kpelle, acted immediately.
He ordered Health Minister Bright to write at once to Finance Minister Steve Tolbert, the President’s younger brother, directing him to allocate annually, with immediate effect, the US$400,000 needed to run Phebe.
That is how Phebe Hospital was saved.
The third person in whose good company Ganta Methodist Hospital exists is the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Ellen loves the Nimba people and they love her, too. Was it not she who urged the Chinese to plant their gift of a modern hospital in the rural Nimba town of Tappita?
Plus, Ganta Hospital is Methodist-owned and run and Ellen is herself a Methodist.
This powerful trio, Doctors Boayue and Gwenigale and President Sirleaf, surely could take action soonest to help keep Ganta Hospital open and functioning properly. Think of all the babies to be born, the children and mothers, both from Liberia and Guinea, to be saved. We pray that the trio will heed this call and act expeditiously to save lives and keep Dr. Albert Willicor, the hospital’s indefatigable Chief Medical Officer, and the Nimba people happy . . . and grateful.
Let us remember, too, that this hospital and the whole mission have been started and sustained for nearly 90 years with American Methodist philanthropy. It is about time that we Liberians play a more substantive role in their operations, to enhance the educational, health and medical welfare of our own people.