Health Minister Cautions Health Facilities Not to Turn Patients Away

CONGO TOWN, Montserrado – Amid the Coronavirus outbreak in Liberia, Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah has cautioned public and private health facilities to avoid turning away patients seeking medical care.

Jallah’s statement, which was made on April 13 at a press conference held at the Health Ministry, came out of the realization that major health crisis of this sort can paralyze entire health systems and impede access to basic health services.

During the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, many people could not access basic health services, as the health sector focused almost exclusively on Ebola patients. A study conducted in 2015 by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that in urban areas in Liberia, only 20-30 percent of patients seeking care during the Ebola epidemic received it. The study found that patients seeking prenatal and obstetric care and emergency services had the most difficulty.

Dr. Jallah asked health facilities to be especially considerate of “pregnant women who are in labor pain, those with other underlining health conditions, to include diabetes, high blood pressure, among others.”

She also asked members of the security sector enforcing the state of emergency to allow health workers passage at various checkpoints. Health workers had been complaining of being stopped by the security team while heading to work.

“Please look at the identity of the health care workers carefully and do not stop and detain doctors, nurses, and other health care workers for hours at night,” Jallah said. She directed them to contact the Health Ministry if they had issues with the identity of any health worker, as the government was not able to issue access passes to all health workers.

“We want to also make sure that health care workers are able to go to work on time because if they do not get to the health facilities on time, patients will not be able to go to the health facilities and will be turned away,” the health minister said.

At the same time, Jallah advised the public to abide by screening procedures at the various health facilities.

“Health care workers at the various health facilities will be checking for COVID-19 and finding out whether a patient have come into contact with someone who’s showing signs and symptoms of the virus,” she said. “The health care workers need to protect themselves.”

Dr. Jallah added, “Patients should not be angry and try as much as possible to respond to all inquiries from the health care workers.”

All of these measures were important to ensure that patients can receive medical care and health workers can be protected, the health minister said.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah


Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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