I never met Tom Kamara in person, but I read his incredibly prolific writings over the years. One of the nation’s best in terms of writing about and disseminating news events out of Liberia, as he sees it from his politically and socially conscious mind.
Before I founded this website in 2002, Tom Kamara always urged me to contribute articles to his online New Democrat website, which he operated from the Netherlands at the time.
It was a relationship built out of mutual respect for each other, and also built out of a collective desire to see Liberians live freely in a prosperous and democratic nation.
As a fighter (with his pen, of course) for justice and democracy in Liberia, Tom was consistent in the succinctly breathtaking way in which he laid out his argument for equality and human rights in Liberia.
That fearless writing style got him in trouble with authorities many times, and made his name a household name in Liberia. Even as he constantly got in trouble with authorities in Liberia, Tom was always Tom, always writing fearlessly for his beliefs that the Liberian people will one day be free and prosperous.
Tom Kamara’s sudden death at age 63, on June 8 reportedly at Brussels International Airport as he arrived there for medical care caught us all by surprise, even as we shockingly mourned his passing. It is an unforgettable loss for the nation, and certainly a loss for his family.
Over the years, I’ve written on this page and other pages the need for good, accessible and affordable healthcare in Liberia. It is one of those rights that shouldn’t be deprived a person no matter how rich or poor, or which social status the individual found themselves to come from at birth.
My desire to have good, accessible and affordable healthcare in Liberia led me to always question why Liberians political leaders often traveled overseas for their routine annual medical checkups, when they could have funded and staffed the local facilities to be treated right there in Liberia.
I wrote extensively about funding and training more doctors, building more hospitals and clinics throughout the country, making prescription drugs affordable and accessible, and funding and staffing those facilities with qualified personnel to oversee them.
I have also written extensively about the need for Liberian presidents and other politically powerful and connected individuals to have confidence in the nation’s hospitals, clinics, doctors and healthcare workers.
When these individuals have confidence in the healthcare system, then they indeed will have the pride and courage to visit those institutions for their own healthcare needs.
Because when those healthcare facilities are staffed with qualified and experienced personnel who are paid well to do their job, then confidence in the healthcare system will rise to a level that Liberians of all socio-economic and political backgrounds will trust the healthcare system, will visit them when they get sick, and will not have to go overseas for medical care.
Had those healthcare facilities been properly staffed and funded, and the politically powerful and connected and those with money have faith in them, Tom Kamara, perhaps would have been alive today.
And if those doctors and other healthcare workers found him to be too sick, they probably would have stabilized him for his eventual visit abroad for advance medical consultation and treatment.
However, the Liberia I know is a place where the politically connected and economically powerful can fly out to visit the United States, Europe or elsewhere for medical care, and also get their annual checkups at a moment’s notice.
President William V. S. Tubman died at a London clinic in 1971. G. Baccus Matthews died in Ghana in 2007, and now Tom Kamara in the Netherlands in 2012.
In the wake of these high-profile deaths in foreign countries, journalists and some members of the national legislature are dying at home at a record level as well from illnesses.
Like her predecessors, President Sirleaf continues to travel abroad annually for her own routine medical checkup, which is often broadcast on the nation’s airwaves as news Liberians need to hear.
The question now is what message are these political leaders sending to the Liberian people regarding the healthcare mess in the country? Are these leaders saying that Liberian doctors and healthcare providers are incapable of caring for them when they get sick?
Well, if these Liberian leaders don’t have any confidence in their own local doctors and hospital system, then why not buy state of the art equipment for the hospitals, fund the training of more doctors, physician assistants, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers for those institutions to be fully functional?
Why not enact legislation or enforce existing laws (if there are any) that forbids the stealing and selling of prescription drugs and equipment from hospitals and clinics?
Other than funding and staffing the healthcare facilities in the country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf can also show leadership by setting a precedent and becoming the first Liberian president to ever get medical treatment or annual physical in Liberia.
That presidential action alone could boost confidence in the nation’s hospital system, and make Tom Kamara proud.