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COVID-19 Rumors Scare Patients from Seeking Health Care at Facilities in Maryland County

Harper – Maryland County Health Team has sounded the alarm, highlighting a low turnout of patients at health facilities in the county since the outbreak of coronavirus began, and raising concerns about poor sensitization efforts related to the pandemic.

Report By: Bryan Dioh, LMD Responsible Health Reporting Fellow

In Maryland County, a growing number of persons now prefer to seek treatment at home rather than at health facilities, according to Augusta Nugba, the county’s health promotional focal person.

Nugba attributed the residents’ fears to rumors that they will be tested for coronavirus and declared positive by health workers – even if they are seeking treatment for other ailments, at health facilities.

“I strongly believe that many persons are afraid because of the rumor that is moving around that once you visit any health facility, medical practitioners will test you positive of the Coronavirus, and this is not true,” she said.

“In fact, almost all of our pregnant women are even afraid, and during pregnancy that is the best time to visit the hospital as we always tell them.”

She continued: “Common sicknesses like, cold. fever and headache were existing before the virus, and people are treated based on their conditions or the problem – they take to the facilities. So, I really don’t understand why our people hold that fear.”

Maryland County has one hospital and 25 clinics, located across three districts – Karluway, Harper and Pleebo.

J.J Dossen Memorial Hospital in Harper City is the major referral hospital in Maryland County. It has also seen decline in the number of patients that seek treatment there since the COVID-19 outbreak | Photo By: Bryan Dion.

Nugba further disclosed that the daily turnout of patients at the county’s health facilities has reduced by 65% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

She indicated that at least 30 persons would go to the county hospital daily prior to the pandemic, but the number of patients visiting daily is now less than 10 people.

“This is a complete decline in the treatment of patient, as well as a risk to the health condition of our people who refuse to visit our facilities,” she said.

Meanwhile, several people have expressed frustration in the health care system of the county since the outbreak.

Martha Jayfin, a resident of Juluken town, said she had been staying away from the hospital because of news that having another sickness exposes you to being tested positive for COVID-19.

“You know we have new sickness in town and from what we have been hearing about the sickness, if you have other sickness in you that is the main time it can catch you,” she said.

“So, it is possible you visit the clinic and they test you positive of the sickness – then how will I manage with my children and family?”

John Harmon, a resident of Harper city, attributed the low turnout of patients at health facilities to health practitioners’ unwillingness to explain more about COVID-19 to patients who go for treatment at these facilities.

“Since this sickness came, I visited the J.J Dossen Hospital about three times, but never a day I went and they even told me about this sickness [COVID-19],” Mr. Harmon claims.

“Even my family and especially the ones I have in the village too can go there, but when they are home and I try to ask them what they heard about the new sickness they cannot even tell me. And we suppose to know more about this sickness through them [health workers], and that will make us not to be scared before the people who can come around.”

Maryland County Superintendent George Prowd has called for “speedy intervention” by the county health officials to curb the situation, adding that if residents are more educated about the new virus, there will be more turnout at health facilities.

“I think this whole COVID-19 thing needs proper explanation to our people especially in our villages and towns, because if that is done our people will not be so afraid or attribute their weakness to visit health facilities to the virus,” the Superintendent said.

“I have talked to our health practitioners and other citizens who understand about the virus to help tell people who do not know, because this is so serious. Every day I am receiving too many complaints about people keeping their selves home when they are sick, and this is dangerous to others who might not be sick, but will want to take care of those who are sick.”

But Dr. Methodus George, the County Health officer, termed the allegation by some residents of the county as false, while indicating that the all health facilities in the county were mandated to explain about the pandemic to people who go to the hospital daily.

He said that, unlike the education provided daily at health facilities, non-governmental organizations are partnering with the CHT to train several community health volunteers to help spread CoVID-19 preventive messages.

Meanwhile, the CHT is expected to launch an awareness campaign aimed at helping to encourage residents to make use of the health facilities.

The campaign, according to the CHT, is aimed at targeting hard-to-reach parts of the county to explain the importance of good health and the use of health facilities. The door-to-door campaign will be conducted by community health volunteers who were recently trained.

Local Voices Liberia is a network of dedicated Liberian journalists based in the 15 counties working to lift the development concerns and progress of rural communities.



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