Redemption Hospital in the Borough of New Kru Town is built on a land that was once the site of a general market that served the residents of the area for a long time.
During non-market hours or days, usually Sunday evenings, it was a popular spot where young men gathered to gamble (play cards and throw dice), meet their girlfriends or the other way around, and also a place where others waited quietly to see the night go by.
I frequented the market countless times as a precocious youngster either to play cards or run errands for relatives, and was surprised to see the market demolished to make room for the current Redemption Hospital.
The idea of razing the popular general market for a government hospital seemed plausible to policymakers at the time since the main government hospital, JFK, was a distant away, which isn’t fun at all when the sick and traumatized had to be rushed to the faraway JFK hospital for emergency medical care.
Who doesn’t need a hospital or clinic in their neighborhood? Residents of the Borough of New Kru Town and the entire Bushrod Island Community surely needed one, and it was godsend when the market was demolished to build a hospital to serve the community.
Originally an outpatient clinic, which later became a 50-bed hospital built in 1982, Redemption has grown to be a 200-bed hospital – the second leading referral hospital in the nation where 400 babies are born each day, since the hospital was reopened in 2003 after the end of the civil war.
Redemption Hospital is not only the second leading referral hospital in the nation, it continues to play a critical role to New Kru Town and Bushrod Island residents; and also managed to tend to the healthcare needs of people from faraway places in metro Monrovia.
However, there is a price a hospital or any organization pays when it is the only viable entity catering to the needs of its residents in a particular area.
And when those residents or patients are mostly poor, sick and unemployed, certainly can create a problem for the hospital; because the influx of unlimited numbers of the poor and unemployed can drain its meager resources.
Had Redemption not been a government-owned hospital funded partly by the Liberian government, private sources and friendly governments, the hospital probably would have evaporated from the corridors of New Kru Town, which also would have presented a crippling blow to the people of that community and surrounding areas.
According to a Forced Migration Review report (FMR), however, staffing gaps and management’s inability to pay decent wages to its employees, is a problem.
Forced Migration Review also added: “Patients have to purchase their own drugs outside the hospital, and fees for services and drugs have been re-introduced. As a result, the number of patients has dropped dramatically from 1,200 inpatient admissions per month in 2005 to currently negligible bed occupancy.”
The international insurance advisor, Pacific Prime, also acknowledged “patients are generally required to pay cash prior to consultation and hospital admission in Liberia.”
Since these patients are unemployed and unable to pay the required fees for a hospital visit, does that mean an automatic death sentence? Some residents and patients alluded to the notion that “no money means no treatment,” which is a sad commentary in a country where unemployment is over 80 percent, and most people are dirt poor.
From my own observation during a visit to Liberia years ago, and from what I have been told by anxious relatives and friends, there are hardly any prescription medications in the hospital’s pharmacy. And when there are no prescription drugs, patient are left untreated to died or be in pain.
Most people blame the lack of prescription drugs on unscrupulous doctors and others who steal from the pharmacy to stock their own private pharmacies and clinics, at the expense of the poor. As a result, there is constantly a lack of supplies of prescription medications in the hospital.
Another report by the California-based “For Our Mothers Charity” added that Redemption Hospital “delivers approximately 400 babies per month. However, the current infant mortality rate (IMR) is 73/1000,” and 200 hundred babies are dying every month. The hospital has limited electricity, fresh water, and little hospital equipment.”
However, Forced Migration Review (FMR) noted: “The Liberian government has demonstrated its commitment by increasing the allocation for health to $10m in its 2007 budget.”
While it is so true that the Liberian government invested $10m in a previous healthcare budget, the 2012/13 healthcare budget increased significantly to $70m, which is still small in present day Liberia since most areas in Liberia seriously lacks hospitals, clinics, nurses and doctors, and since most Liberians are unemployed, sicker, and unable to get access to affordable healthcare.
It is important to note that all is not dark and gloomy for Redemption Hospital and its many patients. The good news is, the Sirleaf administration has partnered with the US-based John Snow Institute (which is commendable) to construct a $3.5 million three-story pediatric wing in New Kru Town known as “Redemption Pediatric Hospital.”
For an impoverished New Kru Town community that has zero jobs and zero economic development to spur growth and development, the construction of the Pediatric Wing is in the right direction.
Now that there is an addition to the hospital, Redemption needs specialists in every area of medicine to attend to the healthcare needs of residents in thd region and surrounding areas.
The Liberian government also has to work out a humane plan that allows the poor and unemployed to have access to free healthcare when they are sick. Because when the poor and unemployed are denied healthcare because of the unavailability of funds, defeats the purpose of having a hospital in their backyard.
Meanwhile, US-based National Krao Association in the Americas (NKAA) and the New Kru Town Association in the Americas (NKTAA) responded to calls to donate medical supplies to Redemption Hospital. Both Krao organizations over the years donated medical supplies to Redemption. Not to be left behind, the Liberia Cuttington Group has also donated medical supplies to Redemption Hospital in 2012.
The Liberian people in that region cannot do without Redemption Hospital. It is a treasure. Let’s save it!