Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's Look at the Facts

One of the most exciting aspects of getting to run the London Marathon is also getting to raise funds for the ELWA Hospital project. This is after all the reason we are currently in Liberia!  I've been doing a little research about health care here in Liberia and here are some statistics I found.

In Liberia there are approximately 28 hospitals and about 0.8 beds per 1000 people. To put this into perspective for you, the USA has approximately 16,000 hospitals and there are 5.4 beds per 1000 people. To break it down even more Washington State has around 100 hospitals with 14,650 beds, that’s 2.1 beds per 1000 people. Currently ELWA hospital is 1 of 7 hospitals in the greater Monrovia area, it has about 35 beds.

The current ELWA Hospital

Construction on the new hospital

When the first and major portion of the hospital is complete, hopefully by the end of 2014, it will have 80 beds. That’s an increase of 45 beds, which may seem small, but every bed means one more person can be treated. There is a potential for 130 beds at the new ELWA hospital, if funding becomes available for more wards. Keep in mind that ELWA hospital was constructed in 1965, when Monrovia had half as many people and ELWA was considered to be located in “the bush." A 30 bed hospital was big! Now days there are times when the beds are full and patients have to be sent to other hospitals (with no guarantee the next hospital will have an open bed) or sit in chairs in the hallways until something becomes available.  Medical equipment is hard to get and very much needed. That includes X-ray equipment, surgical equipment, lab equipment, etc.

Let’s talk about the number of physicians, Liberia has about 215 Doctors for a population of 3.9 million. The USA has just fewer than 750,000 doctors and WA State has about 23,000. That’s 0.05 doctors per 1000 people in Liberia compared to 2.4/1000 in the USA and in WA it’s 3.3/1000. There is only one orthopedic surgeon, only about 5 trained surgeons, and about 6 dentists. The country doesn't have a radiologist, a pathologist, no treatment for cancer, no neurosurgeon, etc... There is no place for a child to receive intensive care. Another government run hospital only has 2 ventilators and even those might not be working.

There is one place where a nurse anesthetist can be trained and even that is an informal program. There are very, very few trained specialists in the country. Most of the doctors have very cursory training—just medical school followed by an informal house job. Part of the lack of trained health care workers is due to the long civil war, professionals fled and have not returned. Another major reason for the lack of doctors in Liberia is that they haven't had a residency program until recently. The new government residency program is now training about 20 doctors at a time divided between four specialties, pediatrics, ObGyn, Internal medicine, and general surgery. 

ELWA hospital which is run by SIM (Serving In Mission)  is hoping to start the first family medicine residency program in the new facility! They hope to start with training two or three new physicians a year. Many of these doctors will be sent into areas in which there are no specialists. They will be trained to care for patients of all ages including newborns and geriatric patients. Their training will include both inpatient and outpatient care. They will learn some basic surgeries such as hernia repair and appendectomy. They will also have training in obstetrics and cesarean sections. ELWA currently has outstanding faculty members in General Surgery and Family Medicine and they will be recruiting more faculty to join in teaching these residents. It is their hope that in training family physicians for Liberia, they will make a longstanding impact on the care in many counties, towns and villages throughout Liberia.

Leading causes of death in Liberia are malaria, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections compared to the US; heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory infections. Many people in Liberia do not live long enough for heart disease, cancer and other such disease to become major factors in death, as average life expectancy is a mere 56 years. Liberia’s infant mortality rate is 71/1000 and maternal mortality rate is 7.7/1000.  The rate in the USA: infant 6.1/1000, maternal .21/1000 and in WA 4.5/1000 and .15/1000. According to UNICEF:
Liberia’s infant and under-5 mortality rates remain among the five highest in the world. More than 15 per cent of children die before reaching their first birthday.
Preventable diseases like malaria and measles are among the leading killers of children. Malnutrition and respiratory infections kill thousands of children each year.

So, how can you help? First, pass this on to all your family and friends. Second, click on one of the links below and donate! The more we raise the more we can do for the people of Liberia.

If you are from the UK, my fundraising page address is:

If you are from the US/Canada, my fundraising page address is:

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