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Bomi County: Concerns Intensify Over Continued Closure of Clinic

Yomo Town, Bomi County – Some local chiefs of Yomo town health facility catchment communities have called on the government to reopen the only clinic serving the area after it was shutdown several months when four persons  contracted COVID-19.

The chiefs complained that residents have to most time trek long distances to seek medical care.

“Our people cannot continue to be going to Tubmanburg and Gbarma Clinic for treatment when we have our own clinic right here,” laments General Town Chief Varney Bai. “The [COVID-19] virus that came here and make the people closed this clinic, that sickness is not here anymore.”

Chief Bai said the three health workers and a community member who were tested positive for the virus have recovered and have been reunited with their families, but the clinic remains closed, something that is creating fear amongst residents that the absence of a functional health center may expose residents to other diseases.

“So, if this clinic is not opened, when our children start getting sick here, the trouble they running away from, they’ll get it because when emergency or serious sickness business come and no clinic, the community people cannot handle that trouble, this is why we want this clinic to be reopened,” he said.

A small crowd of people gathered on the premises of the Yomo Town clinic during a recent visit of officials  of the County Health Team | Photo By: Henry B. Gboluma, Jr.

Yomo Town Clinic serves 16 catchment communities which have over 1,000 residents. It is located about an hour-drive away from Tubmanburg City — along the Tubmanburg-Gbarma highway in lower Torjay Clan of Seniji district, Bomi County.

It was closed after the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the clinic unknowingly treated a COVID-19 patient and subsequently contracted the virus. Later, two other health workers were tested positive for COVID-19.

As a result of those confirmed cases, the Bomi County Health Team temporarily closed the clinic on June 30. The three health workers have since recovered. In fact, on July 28, 2020 they were discharged and reunited with their families.

The OIC of the clinic is Jerry S. Thomas. He has no idea when the clinic will reopen. “I’m okay now and back set to work, but the issue of denial is something serious that is delaying the reopening of this clinic,” he said. “I’m sure this clinic will be reopened in the near future because it is critically located between Gbarpolu and Bomi Counties and on the main road.”

Mr. George Kerkula, Yomo Town Chief, says the longer the clinic remains closed the more children and pregnant women of the communities will be at risk.

“Let them think about the big belly and baby mothers in this town to please open our clinic,” he said. “It is over four months now, communities around here are vexed about this our clinic that is still closed because of the coronavirus.”

Many community members are farmers and can barely afford to transport ailing relatives to the Liberian Government Hospital in Tubmanburg City.

For his part, the town Chief of one of the catchment towns, Boby Togai, said residents are now relying on over-the-counter drugs or those selling drugs in buckets.

“We are just living on people who are selling drug around. So, they [the government] need to really come and talk to us about this clinic before they can open it.” Said Togai, chief of Banana Compound, adding that there are also concerns of stigmatization of the clinic amongst residents.

“If even they open the clinic, with the name on it now – ‘coronavirus clinic’, people will be scared to be going there [for treatment], so they need to look at that as well even though we want it to reopen.”

Meanwhile, Bomi County Health Officer has called for a dialogue with the communities as part of plans to reopen the clinic. Dr. Augustus Garlet Quiah said residents of Yomo town need to express themselves during a dialogue about the state of their health facility and their efforts to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“We are servants of the people, through which the government wants to serve you, but in this situation, you have to help the government to help you,” Dr. Quiah said, warning residents about their denail about the existence of COVID-19. “Don’t make thing difficult for the government.”

Calling for the adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures, the County Health Officer urged residents of the catchment communities to prioritize their health.

“Our people need to be sincere to themselves. That is the only way we can all survival this health crisis – let them continue to listen to health messages, and follow health protocols during this pandemic and their clinic will be open very soon,” he said.

“Now that our social mobilizers and psychosocial teams were able to assist us to get the contacts tested in Yomo Town, which is hosting the Clinic, we are now calling on you to build trust in us in the fight against the coronavirus.

“Our social workers will do series of awareness visits in Yomo town and other catchment communities [and] based on their reports or recommendations, we will proceed to do the needful for them.”

Henry B. Gboluma, Jr. is a journalist, social worker and advocate. He's dedicated to reporting issues that affect rural communities. Gboluma is the Deputy Manager for Administration and Public Affairs at the Voice of Gbarpolu in Bopolu. In 2018 and 2019, Gboluma was awarded Journalist of Year in Gbarpolu County for his commitment to empowering communities through development reporting. He holds a Diploma in Broadcast Journalism and has obtained couple of certificates in Management, Humanitarian Communications, Health Journalism and Environment and Occupational Health. Henry is also a student of A.M.E. Zion University College.



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