-Confronted With ‘Empty Pharmacy’
A fact checking investigative report conducted by this paper has revealed that there is an acute shortage of drugs at the Phebe Hospital in Suacoco, Upper Bong County.
Phebe as the oldest regional referral Hospital in Liberia is situated in central Liberia playing host to patients from Margibi, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh Counties as well as patients from the Republic of Guinea.
Speaking in an interview with a team of investigative reporters during a guided tour of the Phebe Hospital compound in the area recently, the Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing confirmed previous report that the Hospital is short of essential drugs.
“We have 43 satellite clinics under our supervision and we actually have inadequate medical supplies,” Dr. Jefferson K. Sibley disclosed to reporters.
“Most of the times I feel embarrassed when nurses or my staff have to prescribe drugs for patients to be purchased from a nearby pharmacy or other areas; but that’s it, we are short of medical supplies especially essential drugs which is a paramount concern for any health administrator,” he alarmed.
According to him, he pities the conditions of patients or caretakers who have to take prescriptions from nurses at Phebe Hospital to a nearby drug stores or get to Gbarnga to purchase said drugs before being treated; something he said further adds to the pain of patients who most of the times struggle with transportation fares to get them to a nearby health center for treatments.
He puts the estimated annual running cost of Phebe Hospital alone at US$3m, but quickly pointed out that the current approved budget (FY-2018/2019) of the hospital stands at US$1.8m.
Asked if some nurses do take away drugs placed in the pharmacy of the hospital thus creating artificial shortage at the detriment of patients and administrators, Dr. Sibley said he has no knowledge on any misapplication of drugs brought into the hospital’s warehouse and pharmacy from central office adding that supplies brought to the hospital are kept in a safe warehouse.
“We have even stopped nurses from selling drugs in our hospital because it undermines the credibility and integrity of the hospital and the nurses themselves,” Dr. Sibley noted.
To confirm the situation, Dr. Sibley took reporters on a guided tour during which this paper observed that most of the shelves in the pharmacy of Phebe were completely empty to the extent that nurses are seen to constantly be in a situation of fasting and praying not to see patients being sent to them with list of drugs that are not available in the pharmacy.
The entry into the Phebe’s pharmacy by the team of investigative journalists was seen as yet another hope for the nurses since in fact they trusted that the real issues of the hospital could be highlighted by the journalists in sharp contrast of the past experience with hospital authorities or nurses where they (hospital authorities) could not let in journalists to ascertain the facts for themselves and report as they are seen.
One embarrassed, but happy female nurse (pharmacist) was caught on an audio saying, “Thanks to you’ll for coming, come see what we are going through here and I hope you will report exactly what you see here so government and our partners can do something about drugs and medical supplies to this hospital (Phebe),” the nurse encouraged the journalists with passion.
One major challenge that Dr. Sibley said is hampering the efficient and effective delivery of health services in the hospital is low human resource capacity in the area of specialized doctors.
According to him, prior to the civil war the hospital had specialized doctors totaling ten (10), but now has only three specialized doctors; something he said leads to some levels of delay in providing the timely and necessary health care services to patients coming to the hospital especially the ones that have to claim the attention of doctor.
The Phebe Hospital Medical Director disclosed that since he took over at the Hospital, he has installed some significant changes at the hospital compared to prior to assuming the top position of the Hospital.
“In the midst of all of these challenges, we have made some important strives and changes in the areas of sanitation, the installation of computerized X-Ray machine and creation and construction of units and annexes respectively at the Phebe Hospital,” Dr. Sibley revealed.
On a tour at the hospital, reporters observed the installation of modern laboratory equipment in the lab unit of the hospital some of which reportedly produce result in thirty (30) minutes compared to the past where patients have to be made to wait for hours or day (s).