By Thomas Domah, Nimba County
About 285 aggrieved patients from the government-run hospital in Ganta, Nimba County have erected roadblocks along the Ganta-Sanniquellie route in electoral district#2, Nimba in demand of attention.
The aggrieved patients most of whom are suffering from various diseases such as Leprosy, TB and Buruliulcer were seen early Thursday, 9 November blocking the main road.
According to them, they had gone to the Ganta Rehab hospital for treatment, including dressing but were unable to see health workers, who allegedly abandoned the facility, protesting bad treatment from government.
Speaking to reporters on the main road, a spokesperson for the aggrieved patients, James Wonnie, narrates that their decision to block the road is based on refusal of health workers assigned there to administer medication.
“We left our respective homes and have gone to receive treatment at the hospital but were unable to receive treatment on grounds that they have been providing free services to patients for over ten years without being placed on government payroll; based on that, we were unable to received treatment since day”, Wonnie explains.
He notes that lack of treatment including dressing of their sores may have major effect on their health.
The patients’ protest lasted for over four hours thereby, obstructing free movement of people and goods between Ganta and Sanniquellie.
The officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Ganta Rehab hospital, Velerie Guannu, says they are about 89 health workers assigned at the hospital who are providing free services to patients from all 15 counties in Liberia, including patients from neighboring Guinea and the Ivory Coast, for the past ten years without salary.
She explained that out of 89 health workers assigned at the hospital only three are been placed under the government payroll while the balance of 86 health workers assigned at the hospital are been involved into free services to patients at the hospital.
“Our lives are at risk at this hospital, how you will be treating TB, Leprosy cases including Buruliulcer patients for the past ten years without being placed on government payroll. Most of our friends have died in the process, while they were still providing free services to patients at this hospital”, Ms Guannu explains.
She reveals that the hospital currently has a total of 285 In-patients and Out-patients that receive treatments regularly, but they (staff) have been providing free services for the past ten years.
She laments they have engaged government, including the Minister of Health, but no fruitful result regarding their status.
She says they have also taken most of their problems to international development partners, but the partners constantly refer them to the government.
She adds that partners have reduced most of their support to the hospital there, there is an urgent need for government to move in with support.
Martain Dolo, head of the aggrieved health workers, says they have made several engagements with government but there has been no response yet.
He thanked the opposition Unity Party V Standard Bearer Senator Jeremiah Koung, who rushed on the scene and restored calm. But the disenchanted health workers say they may resume their go-slow if their demands are not met.
At the same time, the aggrieved patients complain of lack of drugs at the hospital, so they are facing difficulties in receiving medication, a situation that has now been exacerbated by staff downing tools.
Following the intervention by Senator Koung, the aggrieved patients left the road and returned to their respective homes, while the health workers assigned at the facility thanked the UP Vice Standard Bearer for intervening with promise to return if government failed to address their concerns in less than a month.
Also speaking, former Nimba County Superintendent, Madam Edith Gongloe-Wehyee, calls on the aggrieved patients and the health workers to remain calm, pledging to join others to engage government in a roundtable on their behalf.
She expresses disappointment in lawmakers from Nimba County for doing very little to address problems at the Ganta Rehab Center.
“Leaders in the county need to be active rather than pro-active; they should not be waiting for incidents to occur before they can intervene and should not bring bags of rice and cash to them”, she criticizes.
Addressing the health workers coupled with the aggrieved patients, Senator Jeremiah Koung promises to engage government in addressing their concerns.
He reveals that the government allotted US$40 in the national budget for the operation of the hospital but is surprised to have learned that nothing has been sent there.
“I’m here today as your Senator and I will make sure government addresses your concerns. This is not a good sign; your lives are very much important. There is a need to get involved with your concern”, he emphasizes.
The Senator then provided 200,000 Liberian Dollars with the patients receiving LRD100,000 and fifty 25kg bags of rice, while the health workers received LRD100,000, respectively. Editing by Jonathan Browne