(March 1, 2022, Monrovia, Liberia)—the government of Liberia, through Ministry of Health, has officially commissioned Liberia’s first National hemodialysis center, named Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Dialysis Center; in honor of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The dedication followed after a thorough assessment of the need to establish a dialysis center in Liberia, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led government in 2014, entered into a bilateral agreement with the Government of japan to build the first National Hemodialysis Center.
Subsequently, a medical team from the JFK Hospital was sent to Japan for training in early 2014. Regrettably, after their return, the project to establish the hemodialysis center was put on hold due to competing priorities from the devastating effects of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic that left our health system. The epidemic inflicted many Liberians, but we are told that the death of health workers reduced our health workforce by a little of over 8%.
One of such disastrous consequences evolving from the deadly EVD epidemic was the unfortunate death of one of the medical team members who traveled to Japan for hemodialysis training. Dr. Abraham Borbor, the nation’s dialysis pioneer, lost his life due to the deadly EVD in 2014.
On May 9, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia as the first country in the West African nation to eradicate the deadly EVD epidemic; Liberia had to make plans for recovery. The government developed a new post-Ebola five-year strategic plan to rebuild the health system; this plan included training of Medical Doctors and Nurses in various specialized health related fields.
As government is continuity, in early 2018, the government of Japan met with the newly elected government of President George Manneh Weah, through the Ministry of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and her able deputies without any hesitation, welcome the invitation to re-engage and further strengthen bilateral partnership to ensure the establishment of the National Hemodialysis Center.
At this point, Tokushukai Medical Group, sent Dr. Milanga to established, and plans were made to send the members of team on a study tour to Ghana to prepare them for the task of building a National Hemodialysis Center. The role of the Tokushukai Medical Group was 2-fold; to train a team of 6 (2 medical Doctors, 1 surgeon, 2 nurses and 1 biomedical technician), and purchase the equipment to run the Center. Through NIPRO (a partner of Tokushukai Medical Group) to new dialysis machines, a water system, and one-year warranty on the maintenance of machines were purchased and sent to Liberia.
Due to the need for additional resources, a proposal was submitted by the MOH to the World Bank, requesting additional support for the Center, World Bank approved our request for funding, and provided the much-needed support through the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is through this support of over $400,000 from the World Bank that the team completed the study tour, and the building was completely renovated, and extra consumables were purchased. Efforts to acquire the critical facility began a decade ago during the regime of former President Sirleaf to provide access to much-needed dialysis care in Liberia.
However, President George Manneh Weah, who officially opened the Center, acknowledged difficulties Liberians had endured in accessing advanced dialysis-related medical services outside of the country.
With the existential issues of Liberians travelling abroad for kidney treatment and other disease complications, he recounted: “For too long, Liberians have had to travel out of the country to seek dialysis treatment. No one needs to tell you how costly that is. Not only would you have to worry about the cost of treatment in a foreign country, there is airfare, accommodation, and so many other associated costs which make the overall cost of this lifesaving treatment unaffordable for many.”
President Weah expressed optimism that with the opening of the first Dialysis Center, “anyone and everyone can get affordable dialysis treatment right here in Liberia.”
He described the ten-bed facility as a good beginning, which he insisted is insufficient to address the needs of the entire country.
“I therefore wish to call for the early expansion of this facility, and its replication in other counties in order to provide easy access for our citizens who reside in the rural areas,” the Liberian Leader asserted.
President Weah stressed the need for appropriate budgetary support for the operation and maintenance of the facility, including the adequate supply of consumables and medications, and training.
President Weah reflected how he was briefed in 2018 upon taking office by the then newly-appointed Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah who told him that there was an urgent need for dialysis facilities in Liberia.
Dr. Jallah had told the President about existing efforts in the pipeline since 2011 under the previous administration for the establishment of a National Dialysis Center.
The President said he quickly instructed the Minister to exert every effort to bring the project to fruition, giving her his every encouragement and support.
“And so today, four years later, I am pleased to be here to participate in the Opening Ceremony of the first Liberia National Dialysis Center,” the President said.
President Weah emphasized the importance of the National Dialysis Center, describing it as a major milestone in the Government’s effort to provide comprehensive and modern health facilities to the People of Liberia. He particularly acknowledged the efforts of former President Sirleaf and ex- Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwinegale.
Dr. Weah also extolled the extraordinary role played by former Liberian Ambassador to Japan, Madam Youngor Telewoda, who is now accredited to Germany.
The President added: “I would also like to express my thanks and appreciation to all of those who, under my Administration, have worked tirelessly to complete the Liberia National Dialysis Center, including the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and her able team, as well as the administrative and medical leadership of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.”
He extended profound thanks and deep appreciation to Dr. Tokuda Torao, the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Administrators of the Tokushukai Medical Corporation for what he termed “his kind philanthropy, without which this project might have taken much longer to realize.”
Meanwhile, Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, in remarks, thanked the Chairman of Tokushukai, Dr. Afuso Hisaaki, World Health Organization, World Bank, USAID, and her able staff at the Ministry for their continuous support to the project as well as the country’s health sector.
She expressed excitement for the project which will able treatment of kidney and other disease complications instead of Liberians travelling abroad for treatment: “I am excited because many Liberians suffering from kidney disease will receive treatment at their own health facility, which is a great achievement and a blessing for all of us, as a nation”.
Given her quest for the provision of quality healthcare delivery and to seeing the completion of the project coupled with its furnishing, Dr. Jallah recalled: “To seeing this project completed, I moved from store to store in Ghana to get some equipment that are not seen in Liberia. Fortunately, after all the turnaround, I was able to find them in one of the store.”
Earlier, Dr. Jerry Browne, Chief Executive Officer of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, underscored the importance for human resource development for the full operationalization and maintenance of the nation’s only dialysis center. A team of international medical practitioners has been providing instinct training to Liberian nurses and doctors are to take charge of the Center in the near future.
“Today, we are dedicating this beautiful facility but we should make sure this facility is maintained, nurses and doctors are trained and paid, hence, there should be stable electricity and there should be stand-by generator for this facility, so our people can’t suffer.”
“For the full advancement of health development, it needs holistic approach. The Ministry needs support in advancing the health agenda of the Country, which the World Health Organization (WHO) is committed to”. Dr. Peter Clement, WHO Country Representative to Liberia.
Several speeches were made during the dedication, as partners commit to contributing to the country health sector in order to meet universal health benchmarks.
Director of Communications, MOH/RL