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Editorial

JFK must graduate from its “apartheid-like system”

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Out of the fear of the fear of the deadly Ebola virus disease, the doors of most private and public medical facilities in Liberia are either virtually closed or operating at a low scale. Even though many cases of deaths, especially during the current Ebola crisis, may largely be attributed to the poor healthcare delivery system or fear of Ebola, the attitudes of some health workers toward patients may also be a contributing factor.

Even with the presence of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE, medical practitioners, most especially at the John F. Kennedy or JFK Medical Center in Monrovia, disregard their oath to save humanity. At the moment in Monrovia and its environs, the JFK is at the core of public discussions and criticism for just the wrong reasons, among which is its continuing refusal to attend to emergency patients.

21-year old Nakita D. Forh, a graduating student of Accounting of the Associate degree Program of the Stella Maris Polytechnic, on last Saturday morning, became the latest victim of the ill-treatment perpetrated against patients in the management of the JFK. Nakita, an asthmatic patient and the daughter of a member of the House of Representatives for Montserrado County, was denied admission and rejected last Friday night by nurses and doctors at the JFK Hospital while struggling for breath.

“When we got to the hospital, the nurses and doctors on duty refused to pay attention to my daughter on the basis of observing regulations, leaving her to continue to struggle for breath. I identified myself as a Representative of the 53rd National Legislature, but no one could listen to me,” said the Representative.

“Even though the nurses on duty said there was no doctor on call, one Doctor David emerged from a room, dressed in his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and attempted to attend to her, but later said they could not do anything, and that I should take her home and return the next day,” he told a radio talk Tuesday morning in Monrovia.

21-year old Nakita could still not be helped with a stretcher or wheelchair the next morning upon her return to the JFK and had to die on the floor at last just before the hospital emergency room. A similar attitude was exhibited recently by nurses at the Benson Hospital against women because of her inability to pay US$400.00 for delivery as demanded by the hospital management.

The woman had no alternative, but to give birth in the open just by the very Benson Hospital in Paynesville, outside Monrovia. While we may not want to delve much into the Benson Hospital situation because of the ongoing investigation by the Liberia Medical and Dental Association, attitude only bespeak of the passion for money and not humanity. Again, the public can only anticipate a realistic outcome of the LMDA investigation with the necessary actions against repetition.

The experience of 21-year old Nakita is just a continuation of the ‘unprofessional, unpatriotic and wicked’ management/administrative practices being executed at the JFK Medical Center since 2006. As the Liberia’s largest public health center with an annual budget of about US$6m, no Liberia would have expected the JFK Management/administration to institute such harsh regulations to deny and reject patients in dire need of national health care service.

The JFK cannot even exonerate itself under the canopy of “Ebola fear” because such wickedness dates as far back as the inception of its current administration (when registration fees for out-patient and admission medical services became very astronomical- the first since the establishment of the hospital).

While the prompt intervention of the President of Liberia, especially in the Late Nakita Forh affair, is welcomed, the urgent need to revisit the existing draconian regulations to make the John F, Kennedy Medical Center a true public health facility accessible to all Liberians must be emphasized. It is also anticipated that the inquiry commissioned by Madam President will not only bring relief to the thousands of Liberians seeking medical attention at the JFK, but ensures that the hospital graduates from its current “Apartheid-like System” to one that will again accept all Liberians.

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