Ganta — Nimba County – Approximately 285 aggrieved patients from the government-run hospital in Ganta, Nimba County, blocked the road leading from Ganta to Sanniquellie in District Number 2 in Nimba County early on Thursday morning.
Most of these patients suffer from conditions such as leprosy, tuberculosis (TB), and Buruli ulcer. They took to the main road to express their frustration.
These aggrieved patients had sought treatment at the government-run Ganta Rehab Hospital for medical attention, including dressing of wounds. However, they were unable to receive care as health workers had reportedly abandoned the facility, citing poor treatment conditions from the government.
James Wonnie, the head of the group, spoke to reporters at the site where the patients had blocked the road. He explained that their decision to block the road was due to the refusal of health workers at the hospital to treat them.
“We left our respective homes and came to receive treatment at the hospital but were denied care because the health workers have been providing free services to patients for over ten years without being placed on the government payroll. As a result, we were unable to receive treatment,” he said.
The patients emphasized that not receiving treatment, including dressing their wounds, had a major impact on their well-being.
The protest by the patients continued for over four hours, disrupting the movement of people between Ganta and Sanniquellie.
Valerie Guanu, the officer in charge (OIC) of the Ganta Rehab Hospital, a government-run facility, explained to reporters that out of the 89 health workers assigned to the hospital, only three were on the government payroll. The remaining 86 health workers were providing free services to patients from 15 counties in Liberia, as well as patients from Guinea and Ivory Coast, for the past ten years.
“Our lives are at risk at this hospital. Treating TB, leprosy, and Buruli ulcer patients for the past ten years without being placed on the government payroll has taken a toll on us. Many of our colleagues have died while still providing free services,” Guanu expressed.
She added that the hospital currently had 285 patients, both inpatients and outpatients, who had been receiving free services for the past decade. The hospital had engaged the government, including the Minister of Health, but no progress had been made.
Guanu also mentioned that they had sought assistance from international development partners, but they had referred them back to the government. While the international partner had reduced its support, Guanu urged the government to step in and provide the necessary support.
Martin Dolo, the head of the aggrieved health workers’ association at the hospital, reported that they had made several attempts to engage with the government, but there had been no response so far.
He thanked Senator Jeremiah Koung, the Vice Running Mate of the opposition Unity Party, for intervening and restoring peace during the protest. However, he warned that they would return if their demands were not met.
The patients also disclosed that there was a shortage of drugs at the hospital, making it difficult for them to receive proper treatment.
Following Senator Jeremiah Koung’s intervention, the aggrieved patients cleared the road and returned to their homes, while the health workers at the hospital extended their thanks to the senator for his assistance. They promised to return if President George Weah’s government failed to address their concerns within a month.
Former Nimba County Superintendent Madam Edith Gongloe-Wehyee urged both the aggrieved patients and the health workers to remain patient and engage the government in a roundtable discussion. She expressed disappointment with the lawmakers from Nimba County and called for more proactive leadership.
Senator Jeremiah Koung, the Unity Party Vice Running Mate, pledged to engage the government in addressing their concerns. He stressed the importance of government addressing the issues and provided financial assistance to both the patients and health workers.
Koung also urged the patients not to support the re-election of President George Weah, whose government they claimed had brought suffering and poor living conditions to Liberians, including the healthcare sector.