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President Weah, Please Answer Phebe Hospital’s SOS Call and Save Our Rural People

first_imgWe consider this Editorial a very serious one, because it is intended to make a direct and urgent appeal to President George Weah to come to Phebe Hospital’s rescue, in the same way President William R. Tolbert saved this hospital in 1973.What is at stake is yet another very serious crisis at one of the nation’s leading medical and health institutions—Phebe Hospital in Suacoco, Bong County.  Why is Phebe so  critical?  Because it serves millions of rural Liberians; and also travelers through Liberia’s vast interior that may fall sick en route or become victims of terrible accidents along the highways leading through Bong County, on to Lofa, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and beyond.Why do we say that history is about to repeat itself?  Because the crisis at Phebe today is identical to that which befell Phebe in 1973, just after Dr. Walter Gwenigale returned home from his highly successful medical studies in Puerto Rico and Los Angeles, California, United States of America.The alarming story from our Bong County Correspondent Marcus Malayea, published on the back page of yesterday’s Daily Observer, told us that Phebe is probably the nation’s oldest hospital—97 years.  It was started by American Lutherans in Harrisburg, Montserrado County around 1921 when they opened their first Liberian mission in this part of Montserrado County, on the Right Bank of the St. Paul River.  Attached to the hospital was a School of Nursing.  There in Harrisburg the Lutherans also planted the E.V. Day Girls School.  The Lutherans put their male students school across the river in Millsburg, and called it the Muelenberg Boys School.Nearly a half century later the Lutherans, in collaboration with the Episcopal and Methodist Churches, relocated Phebe to Suacoco, in the then Central Province which in 1964 became Bong County.  It was an ultra-modern medical facility in the heart of rural Liberia, equipped with a modern operating room and X-ray department, electricity and running water.  A little later, Phebe joined with Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University) to open the nation’s first degree-granting School of Nursing.But immediately upon Dr. Gwenigale’s return from his medical studies, the Lutheran missionaries at Phebe told him they were closing Phebe and turning it into a health center.  They said there was no money to continue running the hospital, because American Lutherans were now focusing on saving “the heathen at home, rather than the heathen abroad.”Dr. Gwenigale, who had returned with his Puerto Rican wife Carmen, a well-trained radiologist and their year-old  first son, Walter, Jr., did not panic at this alarming revelation.  The doctor, also a surgeon, made a fast move.  He drove to Monrovia one morning and found his Cuttington classmate, now a journalist, at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism and told him the terrible news about Phebe.  Walter Gwenigale, along with his Lutheran Training Institute classmate Wilton Sankawulo, had graduated in 1959, just as Kenneth Y. Best had graduated from the Booker Washington Institute that same year and the three of them, among many others from all over Liberia, met at Cuttington as freshmen in February 1960.  In mid-1961 the Lutherans sent Walter to Puerto Rico for medical studies.  He presented to his classmate the crisis he faced immediately on his return—Phebe, the hospital he had returned home well prepared to serve, was closing down.“So what do you want me to do?” asked  KYB.“I want you to write about it to see if we can stop Phebe from closing.”That same weekend Mr. Best traveled to Phebe in Suacoco, interviewed the Lutherans in charge of Phebe, who confirmed the imminent closure, met the Hospital Board that was meeting that Saturday morning, then toured the entire facility, including all the infrastructure. The result was two major stories the following week—on Tuesday and Thursday, published in the Liberian Star, a daily, and the bi-weekly Liberian Age. On seeing the stories, President William R. Tolbert summoned his Health Minister, Counselor Oliver Bright, who confirmed to him Phebe’s imminent closure, because the Lutherans said they had no more money to keep the hospital open. “How much does it cost to run Phebe annually,” President Tolbert enquired.“US$400,000, Mr. President, according to Mr. Best,” Minister Bright replied.President Tolbert immediately dictated a letter to his younger brother, Finance Minister Steve Tolbert, directing him to provide US$400,000 annually to keep Phebe Hospital open.Dr. Gwenigale took over Phebe immediately and ran it successfully for over 30 years, even through the war years.  It was this enviable legacy that led President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to appoint him her Health Minister for most of her tenure.We appeal to President George Weah to repeat history by doing for Phebe what President Tolbert did for this critical medical institution on which millions of our rural people as well as travelers up country depend for their health, medical and even emergency needs.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Overmedicalization of Birth: Why Are Cesarean Section Rates so High in the U.S.?

first_img ShareEmailPrint To learn more, read: Posted on May 16, 2014November 4, 2016By: Katie Millar, Technical Writer, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthClick to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Some view the rate of Cesarean sections as ubiquitous, others scarce. Either way, rates that deviate far from the WHO’s recommended rate of 15 percent are undesirable and pose health risks to both moms and babies. To highlight this fact, the birth story of the MHTF’s very own Kate Mitchell was recently featured in PRI’s article, “Why are Cesarean sections so common when most agree they shouldn’t be?” From the PRI story:Kate’s birth story“‘I constantly meet women who have very similar experiences to me,’ says Mitchell, ‘where they were committed to having a low-intervention vaginal birth, and their providers were also committed to support them in that, and somehow they still ended up having a C-section. That’s the mystery to me. I don’t understand how that happens… The evidence suggests that a C-section is a more risky route of delivery than a vaginal birth,’ she says. ‘So why are we delivering more and more babies in a risky way?’”Lack of clear clinical guidelines“One problem, experts say, has been a lack of clear guidelines specifying the circumstances under which a C-section is medically necessary, leading to a wide variation in the prevalence of Cesareans across hospitals. A study published in March of last year found that the C-section rates across Massachusetts ranged from 14 to 39 percent, with no differences in the condition of the patients that might explain the variation. ‘It really comes down to a difference in styles across hospitals,’ says Sakala. ‘We need to rein in those differences.’In an attempt to do that, this February the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued joint guidelines that call on doctors and hospitals to avoid Cesarean sections, even if it means letting first-time mothers remain in labor longer and push harder. The guidelines recommend letting first-time mothers push for three hours or more during labor. They also recommend using forceps to get the baby out vaginally.”Kate’s story is not uncommon. While the under medicalization of birth is a problem in many countries, so is over medicalization. A combination of legal, clinical, and cultural factors have brought us to a dangerous new normal for birth. To review the implications of an increase in Cesarean sections on maternal health and rights, see our previous post.Share this:last_img read more