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Community, Health Workers Smoke ‘Peace Pipe’ in Nimba; Restore Trust and Confidence

Nimba County – A meeting bringing together over 25 health workers and community members to discuss challenges tantamount to collapsing the health system in Nimba County has ended in Saclepea and Zoe-Geh Health Districts with results showing renewed corporation.

Participants recalled that the impediment was perceptions and misconceptions which were tearing down the relationship between health workers and the communities.

Nimba County, the second populated county in Liberia currently has 74 health facilities with 24 of these located within Saclepea and Zoe-Geh Statutory Districts which are poorly equipped. But the lack of trust, confidence and cordiality continue to divide health centers and communities with either side accusing the other of wrong doing.

According to some of the dissatisfactions and concerns expressed by community members at the meeting, there were accusations that they (communities) are treated unfairly in their own clinic they built and turned over to government adding that drugs sent by government and NGOs to the clinics are smuggled out by the health workers and are sold openly in drug stores.

The community alleges that nearly every drug prescriptions done at most of the clinics are referred to drug stores instead of the clinic’s pharmacy.

Expressing concerns and dissatisfactions on behalf of community members at the meeting, Mr. J. Barleay Fahn said: “We the community members are treated unfairly in our own clinic we built and turned it (clinic) over to government, but drugs sent by government and NGOs to the clinics are not adequately given to us but smuggled out by the health workers and are sold openly in their drug stores.”

Mr. Fahn further alleged that nearly every drug prescription done at most of the clinics is referred to drug stores instead of the clinic’s pharmacy. “If you were fortunate, they may sometime give you few pills which cannot help in any way,” he added.

Fahn continued: “At some clinics, the health workers give treatment to patients on who-knows-you basis. Beyond that, they reject patients even when the patient is dying. In most case, they reduce the number of patients treated a day to 25 only to play 66 card games while many go home sick. The untreated patients will then end up buying their medicine from black bags medicine sellers.”

On the other hand, health workers feel disappointed about how some communities treat them. These health workers claimed they are forced by locals who they refer to as hosts to pay house rent, complaining that they are segregated and discriminated against.

The health workers, at the same time, say they have suggested that community provide them housing in order to keep them close to the health facilities to ensure they serve effectively but all to no avail.

“I pay USD20.00 monthly as house rent to my landlady – this is very exorbitant for a local community like Duo and moreover I work 24 hours without bonus, but community members still feel that I have everything because I am paid by government,” explains Cynthia D. Koukou, Officer in Charge at the Duo Town Clinic. “And one thing they (community dwellers) fail to know is that I have only 8 hour to work as a civil servant, so working sleeplessly to save their lives should register my love for them and not for the love of doing the work.”

Like Mrs. Koukou, several health workers who spoke at the meeting expressed similar disappointment. Miss Yei Sendolo of Flumpa Community Clinic lamented: “Some citizens even falsely attack us of taking drugs supplied to the clinic to our house, private clinics or drug stores which is merely a wrong perception about us.”

“If the claims and counter claims continue to remain unresolved, clinics built by the communities will be used for other purposes instead of its present status because health workers may pack their bags to leave and community dwellers would be left vulnerable to diseases and death,” warned John W. Tozay, a resident of Zoe-Geh District.

Commissioner Martin Fangai, Zoe-Geh District was concerns about the unfolding and said health workers are very important to the district since they take care of the day-to-day health of the local people. “The medical people are trained and whether the health worker assigned (at the clinic) is big or small, give that respect,” he advised.

“Equally so”, he continued, “because the community people are not train, the health workers some time want talk to our people the way they want to …; everyone will have a share of the wrong in the process. On a very small scale, some of the health workers are impatient too.”

However, Superintendent Fangai then expressed hope and said the meeting was necessary because it brought the two sides together to know what was actually happening behind the scene and has now created the means to ‘iron it out’ putting aside differences. “It is evident that both sides have never come together like this to express their likes and dislikes to help improve their relationship,” he said.

For his part, District Health Officer, Cooper Karnue of Sacleppea District, called on the people of his district to see health workers as their partners in promoting the good image of the clinics built by the community.

After hours of deliberation, both sides resolved to work together and forgo previous perceptions held against each other and work in a healthy community where volunteerism, trust and confidence will be the next course of action in the county.

The Ministry of Health and her county counterpart commended the health workers and community members for the level of cooperation assured to foster good working relationship in promoting the health sector.

Report By: Mac Samah

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