Plans Made to Reopen Ganta Methodist Hospital
HEADLINE: PLANS MADE TO REOPEN GANTA METHODIST HOSPITAL
On February 10, 2004, I interviewed Mrs. Mary Zigbuo, Associate Administrator, Ganta United Methodist Hospital (Ganta Hospital), on the current works and situation of the Hospital. She explained that the hospital is not operating presently as the result of the huge damages done to the hospital and ancillary buildings, since LURD aggressively attacked and captured Ganta City on March 29, 2003. However, she noted that the Hospital maintains a temporary office in Monrovia as preparations are steadily been made to ensure an early return and reopening.
Mrs. Zigbuo explained that LURD's surprise invasion of Ganta, Nimba County on the afternoon of March 29, compelled absolutely everyone to flee the town. "Many people ran to the bushes, while several others moved to Monrovia and neighboring Guinea", she said. Since that day, Ganta Hospital has remained closed down.
According to her, the hospital staff on duty used the limited available time to relocate all critically ill patients to the Saniquellie Hospital in Saniquellie and the Yekepa Hospital in Yekepa. Both towns are also located in Nimba County, 24 miles northeast and 44 miles northeast of Ganta, respectively. Other patients were carried away by their relatives to the bushes and elsewhere. In addition, all the staff left. According to her, few of the staff are presently working for NGOs, in Monrovia while some are in villages around Ganta. Others "are still in limbo".
Since United Nations Peacekeepers deployed in Ganta on February 2, Mrs. Zigbuo and other hospital staff have visited the Hospital every other week. She reports massive looting and destruction of the Ganta Hospital Compound. "The looting was pervasive in terms of medical supplies, equipment, furniture, roofing, electrical and plumbing fixtures". In addition to the looting and destruction of the hospital and ancillary buildings, several other buildings, including four staff residence buildings, one guest house, the Methodist high school building, the church parsonage, and two of the buildings occupied by the nursing school were burned down.
Mrs. Zigbuo sadly pointed out that many of the people who moved to the bushes, "dwelling in virtually `make shift' kitchens became ill. Many children died of chronic malaria while others suffered from worm infestations.
This is why we must plan to move back very soon because the people are suffering". She further elaborated that since the deployment of peacekeepers in Ganta the Hope Clinic has been providing minimum medical care to returnees. However, she asserted that this clinic is very limited.
Although the Hospital is presently not in operation, Mrs. Zigbuo stated that it maintains a temporary office in Monrovia while management is making preparations for an early return in order to begin the provision of health care and training services from the Ganta Compound.
Strategically situated in Ganta City, 167 miles northeast of Monrovia, Ganta Hospital has been operating in that northeastern part of Liberia for the past seventy years as the only referral and teaching hospital in the region. Mrs. Zigbuo says, "Ganta Hospital offered affordable healthcare services to the chiefly farming communities in and around Ganta. In many cases", she added, "people who can't afford the cost of the care given are treated on a charity basis". She then feared that if the hospital cannot reopen soon, there will be a lot of unnecessary deaths in the coming months.
In addition to the referral and teaching hospital, the Winifred J. Harley School of Nursing, one of only three baccalaureate degree granting nursing schools in Liberia, and the Ganta Methodist High School were also situated on the Ganta Hospital Compound. According to Mrs. Zigbuo, the nursing school has been temporarily relocated on the campus of the United Methodist University in Monrovia. "I am not sure when the nursing school will return to Ganta because two of their buildings were burned down", she said. She further explained that the high school commenced classes on February 2.
Mrs. Zigbuo assured the interviewer that there are plans under way to reopen the hospital as early as March. "That is our priority for now". To achieve this, repairs must be done to the hospital building, few residences and the electrical, water and plumbing systems, a process, she said, that is already taking place and should be completed by the end of February. She added that although repair work is going on, funds are urgently needed in order to purchase drugs, medical supplies and equipment. "We presently have no funds for that yet. The senior management staff have been talking with humanitarian organizations to assist. Up to present, some have promised to donate supplies to the hospital but no promise of funds has been made". According to her, these funds are essential for the general operation of the hospital and to pay the staff.
Commenting on how Ganta hospital is going to recruit new staff for the reopening of the hospital, Mrs. Zigbuo noted that "we have been in constant communication with most of our staff. Although few of the staff are now working with NGOs and may likely not return, most of them are all willing to return to Ganta Hospital as soon as it reopens".
As peace and security once more return to the completely destroyed city, many people have begun returning in order to commence rebuilding their homes.
The demand for health care, especially for those returning from the bushes, is tremendous and requires immediate attention. Although Liberia has just benefited from $520 million in pledges from the UN donor conference, what will be given premier priority in the construction and rehabilitation of the war ravished country, is not yet known, a process that is going to take several months to implement.
Concluding, Mrs. Zigbuo stated that "we are very dependent on people who will like to support health care work in Liberia for help". She extended a passionate appeal to humanitarian organizations and other aid agencies for urgent assistance.
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Last Modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2004 10:41