The mysterious fire that gutted the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in which the entire laboratory used by the National Drug Service (NDS) was burnt remains unexplained as the Administrator, Dr. Wvannie Scott-McDonald requests for US$6.6 million to renovate the hospital. In her plea, Dr. McDonald said the amount will help to renovate, equip, and develop the IT infrastructure of the hospital. The amount, which the JFK Administrator referred to as “Project Fund,” will be an addition to the already proposed US$5.2 million in the 2017/2018 Fiscal Budget, our reporter at the Legislature disclosed.
This raging fire destroyed drug and lab equipment that could have helped the healthcare delivery of the country. Since the disaster on May 30, the public is yet to get any information from preliminary investigation regarding the cause of the fire. Why should the JFK Administration give account to the public? It is because funds supporting work of the medical center comes from taxpayers and foreign partners who have major stake in the medical center’s operation. There is nowhere else to get money to respond to request made for $6.6 million in addition to $5.2 million besides taxes Liberians pay to the national government and humanitarian package from foreign partners.
At the time of the disaster, eyewitnesses could not determine the cause or source of the fire, but saw the heavy flame to their surprise. In spite of efforts made for a UN firefighting truck to enter through the Cholera Unit, the gate remained perpetually closed until local residents had to jump over the high concrete fence to forcibly open the gate. To the dismay of many, not any administrator of NDS or the JFK appeared to make a comment that will reflect a view about what was unfolding, but everyone remained mute and irresponsive to requests for interview from journalists that were at the scene.
Our curiosity to demand the NDS and JFK Administrators to come out with a report about the fire disaster comes from this point. On the day following the disaster, some students of the University of Liberia were heard commenting that it could be a setup to destroy the facility to cover some clandestine act that might have been carried out in the laboratory where a lot of equipment and drugs are stored. The students, who are not ignorant to the unethical practices encountered at hospitals and other places in Liberia, noted that transferring equipment and drugs from hospitals where they were assigned, to private drug stores and pharmacies, had become customary in the health sector, and that the mysterious fire could be the perfect cover for any such deed that might have been carried out at the NDS facility. Is this not a worrisome observation to make anyone anxious to make clarification?
Dr. McDonald, you will recall that on many occasions the public has accused this major referral hospital of poor services, unethical practices and diverting of drugs and equipment intended for the hospital to private clinics and pharmacies. Abandonment of patients, referring patients out to purchase drugs outside the hospital, paying some local journalists to give undeserved publicity, etc. are all accusations that had emerged over time. These public accusations should therefore beat your imagination to reason that, delay in the investigation or failure to bring out the cause of the fire would yield to upholding these perceptions, thus casting dark cloud over your reputation as a public servant.
We therefore see it expedient to urge you and your team to hasten the investigation and give a clear and convincing report to the public regarding the fire disaster that brought this huge setback to the country. While the renovation of the facility is an emergency and needs a quick redress, taxpayers will feel content if they know why they are paying their money and the benefit they are receiving from what they pay. Please make available report about cause of the fire as you push for more funds to renovate the facility.