Transcript of Interview with Project HOPE Volunteer Surgeon Dr. Jonathan Laryea in Monrovia, Liberia

Broadcast on March 12, 2012


INTRO: Liberia’s health system, like many others across Africa, faces enormous challenges and the country’s 20-year civil war led to a severe shortage of doctors.  But now, the US-based medical and surgical team known as Project HOPE has been organizing clinics and surgeries. Ghanaian-born doctor, Dr. Jonathan Laryea is an associate professor of colorectal surgery in the USA.  He is one of the visiting doctors, and our correspondent,  Jonathan Paye-Layleh asked him why he had come.

Dr. Jonathan Laryea:  We have friends in Liberia who are medical personnel and so for me, personally, I have been interested in Liberia and I have talked with Dr. Sirleaf, who is the President’s son about coming to Liberia even before this program came.  And so I know a little bit about the lack of medical personnel in Liberia and the fact that there are very few of them left in the country. 

Jonathan Paye-Layleh: What have you seen of the health sector since coming to Liberia?

Dr. Jonathan Laryea: We spent the weekend at Phebe Hospital doing surgeries.  It was heartbreaking to see some of the patients that we could not help because if we did anything there was no-one to follow up because the doctors are not available here.  But more importantly we think that we can also transfer knowledge to the doctors and the nurses who are here.

Jonathan Paye-Layleh:  How are you going to do that?

Dr. Jonathan Laryea: In doing the cases, we have the doctors around and we teach them how to do these cases.  And I think this was a short trip for now, but definitely we are planning to come back for a longer period, where in addition to doing surgeries and teaching the Liberian doctors who are doing surgeries, we will also have some didactic sessions with them in training them and in training nurses in some of the ways they can improve the health care that they deliver to their people.

Jonathan Paye-Layleh:  But what can the health authorities and governments in the sub region do to really improve health care for their people?

Dr. Jonathan Laryea:  There’s a lot that can be done.  For example, there are other countries in the sub region that are in a better position, relatively speaking, compared to Liberia.  For example, there are some specialties that are not even available here in Liberia because the doctors are not here.  And so there can be multinational arrangements for patients to be treated for example in Ghana or Nigeria or other places where there are specialists.  The other thing that I have been told about is the fact that the Liberian government is actually thinking about setting up a national post graduate college, and so they sent a team to Ghana to learn from their system so that they can implement it here.  That would help them train more doctors locally to help take care of the people here because right now there’s nothing like that here.

Jonathan Paye-Layleh:   Based on your assessment of things, do you think resources in the sub region are really being directed at the health needs of its people?

Dr. Jonathan Laryea:  I think that’s a very tricky question and a difficult question to answer. Again, when you look at the sub region, there are many competing needs, and so the governments will have to make very difficult decisions in terms of how to allocate resources.  And because there are so many competing needs, the problems are so enormous that even allocating a big chunk of the GDP to the health sector will still be only cracking the surface of the problem so it’s just going to take a lot of political will and time to get the problem solved.

BBC STUDIO:   That was Dr. Jonathan Laryea, a Ghanaian-born doctor speaking with our correspondent in Monrovia, Jonathan Paye-Layleh.

The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster,[1][2] broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays. Focus on Africa reaches 20 million listeners each week.


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