Nimba public health centers in crisis
…. …while public clinics and hospitals run out of medicine, leaving the poor to suffer.
It’s 9 a.m. and Mercy is tending to the needs of patients at the Dorgbor Municipal Clinic. But as she opens the clinic’s medicine cabinet, a drawer opens and she finds very few drugs in it that will hardly meet the needs of the patients.
Mercy, who works as a nurse at the clinic, located in Gbi and Doru administrative district, Nimba County, tried three other compartments that would normally hold vials of essential and basic drugs, and the results were all the same: low Stock supply.
The low stock of drugs meant that Mercy and other nurses at the clinic had to ration themselves, leaving some patients to go home without drugs.
“Here we are facing a critical shortage of basic medicines and urgently need medicines to replenish stocks. This is a real problem. We don’t have enough medicine for the needs of the population,” explained Mercy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. “A patient today will have to seek out most of the drugs they need in private, where prices are much higher than in public health facilities.”
According to Mercy, basic essential medicines ranging from anesthetics, pre-operative drugs and medical gases, as well as pain and palliative care drugs, are all in short supply.
But despite the drug shortage at the Dorgbor town clinic, Mercy and the other clinic staff still have to prepare for a busy Monday, the day of the week that sees more patients at the clinic. than other days. Most of the clinic’s patients are women and children.
The administrative district of Gbi and Doru is located in the southern part of Nimba, with Grand Gedeh to the east and Rivercess to the southwest. The largest medical facility is the Jackson Fiah Doe Referral Hospital in Tappita, located approximately 100 km from Gbi and Doru. The neighborhood also happens to be the home of the late mother of President George Weah, who hailed from the area.
And while Mercy was responding to her patients, residents of Yarwin Mensonnoh, another remote district in Nimba County, were also complaining of drug shortages – a situation that has weakened health care services in that part of the county.
In Yarwin Mensonnoh and Gbi and Doru, two of Nimba’s poorest administrative districts, doctors and nurses working there have struggled for weeks to get their hands on crucial drugs like penicillin and some other antibiotics – needed to treat infections and other illnesses as well as antimalarials.
But it seems the shortages are not just affecting people in the poorest part of Nimba, as most government clinics and key hospitals are also affected. For example, Esther & Jerelyn Medical Center in an urban city like Ganta is among the public hospitals that lack the stock to serve their patients. Other public health centers, including George Way Harley Hospital in Sanniquellie and Jackson Fiah Doe Memorial Hospital, are also facing a similar problem.
In the end, patients are mostly given prescriptions on random sheets of paper to buy their drugs from any nearby pharmacy or drugstore. Or in some cases, they have to buy their own medical gloves or a battery for thermometers before they can be checked.
Shortages now mean hospitals big and small now have to scramble to find alternatives to meet their patients’ needs, with doctors and nurses dismayed that some patients have to suffer or risk unusual reactions. to alternative medications that are not the best option.
The situation, according to Nimba District Chiefs and Commissioners, requires urgent attention from the government as it becomes increasingly difficult for people in the county – especially the most vulnerable – to access basic medicines. .
“This lack of medicines in public health centers and hospitals is part of a larger problem in the Nimba health system. But we can’t let this go on for long. We need to ensure that basic medicines are within reach of all Namibians,” said James Karr, who is the District Commissioner for Gbi and Doru.
Commissioner James added that at the Dorgbor town clinic, nurses now give prescriptions to their patients after diagnosing their illness, “because the drugs needed to treat the problem are available in the clinic.”
He said it is very difficult to buy medicine in any part of his district and hence the patient seeks another cure for the disease which sometimes leads to complications or death.
“You can’t even find a pharmacy in the neighborhood to buy medicine, so giving patients a prescription means nothing. You just tell them, ‘no drugs, go home,’” he said.
Also in Kparblee, the District Commissioner complained that although his people have clinics, they have no medicine, which hits the poorest people the hardest.
According to Commissioner Henry Korso, the situation in his district is serious with the most vulnerable people in the poorest areas severely affected, as there are no medicines in public hospitals and health centers.
“We have clinics in our district but no medicine,” Korso said. These clinics are in urgent need of medical supplies and medicines to effectively meet people’s health needs. We have well-trained doctors and nurses here, but what we lack now are enough drugs and other medical equipment to keep the facilities running properly.
Kparblee, which is one of the seventeen administrative districts of Nimba, is located in Tappita, statutory district and situated along the Cestos River which borders Liberia with the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire.
Back in Ganta, at E and J Hospital, nurses who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that while the hospital offers free treatment, shortages of drugs and other equipment mean patients are not not simply invited to buy their own medicines, but any other material necessary for their treatment; while paying for surgical and laboratory tests.
“Even though most services, including bed fees and doctor’s consultation, are free, patients will now have to buy medical gloves and a thermometer battery and pay for lab tests,” the authorities said. nurses.
Meanwhile, local authorities like Korso and James have revealed that while private pharmacies have medicines in stock, rural people find it difficult to get to pharmacies and most cannot afford the prices. As a result, more and more patients are on their own – indulging in the risks of counterfeit medicines.
They fear that the shortages could steer more people towards questionable drugs sold by unregulated vendors, as Liberia is one of many African countries where counterfeit pharmaceuticals pose a health problem.
And with Nimba being a county with multiple external borders, the risk, they say, is high. The department shares borders with the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire to the east and the Republic of Guinea to the northwest. With the county area measuring 11,551 square kilometers (4,460 sq mi), Nimba is the largest of Liberia’s 15 counties
“If there are no medicines in public health centers, people turn first to the local market, because they cannot afford to buy in pharmacies,” the commissioners added. . Meanwhile, efforts to get a response from the local health authority failed to materialize as their phone kept ringing constantly.