CountryFact CheckHealthLiberia

In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000

Claim: The doctor-to-patient ratio under George Weah is one to 20,000, according to Activist Martin Kollie.

In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000

Verdict: False! The post from Activist Martin Kollie stating that the Doctor-to-Patient ratio in Liberia under George Weah is one to 20,000 contradicts the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) statistic that the country has a total of 920 doctors, which means the ratio mathematically is one doctor to 5,000 citizens. 

Full Text

Activist Martin Kollie, in one of his regular Facebook posts dated January 3, 2023, quoted the WHO that the Doctor-to-Patient Ratio should be 1 to 1,000.

He added that under George Manneh Weah, the narrative is worrying. According to him, at the moment in Liberia, “there is one doctor for 20,000 patients,” citing the WHO 2021/2022 HWF report as his source.

He said, “It was 1 to 15,000 under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Y’all go and put Jorweah there again. It will go up to 1 to 50,000. Crisis!!”

Activist Martin Kollie, who posted the statement on January 4, 2022, on his official Facebook page, has sparked public debate among Facebook users.

Some Facebook users agreed with Kollie over his claim, while others branded the post as political and false.

In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000
In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000
In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000
Images: Screenshot from Facebook users.

Liberia’s fragile health sector has been exposed on two different occasions, both in 2014 and 2019. The former was due to the deadly Ebola virus outbreak leading to the deaths of scores of citizens.

The country reported the highest number of Ebola cases in the West African region. Though Liberia has been declared free of Ebola, its adverse effects remain fresh in the minds of ordinary people.  

Hit by the global Covid-19 in 2020, the nation, as of January 11 (2023), recorded a total number of 294 deaths and total confirmed cases at 8,043.

Like other nations of the world, COVID also affected the cost of living for ordinary Liberians. 

With the challenges associated with the health implications mentioned above, we decided to verify the claim by activist Martin Kollie on his official Facebook page.

Verification

The doctor-to-patient ratio refers to the number of available doctors per every 10,000 inhabitants in a population, in a given year, for a given country, territory, or geographic area. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a one to 1,000 doctor-to-patient ratios for adequate healthcare service.

With this recommendation from the WHO, it is critical to examine the truth behind the claim. 

Activist Kollie, in his statement, specifically referenced the 2021/2022 Health Workforce (HWF report) as his source. But, online research for the 2021/2022 HWF report seems inaccessible.

This researcher reached out to the WHO local office to access the report, but it was not provided despite many efforts. However, the WHO, according to an official working with the Ministry of Health, Chester Smith, the global health institution, does not release such national data to individuals.

The World Health Organization measurement method concerning data collection is often drawn from its country offices based on information reported by the national health authority. 

However, the national health authority in Liberia, charged with feeding the WHO with national data, rubbished the claim.

The Deputy Minister for Planning and Research at the Ministry of Health, A. Vaifee Tulay, said that on record, there are 920 medical doctors currently in Liberia, contrary to the claim from Kollie.

“Statistically, when one measures the above number of Medical doctors against the nation’s estimated 4.8 million population, you will have the figure of about 5,000 patients to 1 Doctor,” A. Vaifee Tulay noted.

When asked about the WHO 2021/2022 HWF report, Deputy Minister Tulay maintained that such a report has not reached his desk, “Not to my knowledge, maybe it is on its way.”

Interestingly, when contacted, Kollie, who claimed to have gathered his information from the World Health Organization HWF, backpedalled on his previous source.

As indicated below, the claimant referred DUBAWA to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council report.

In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000
In Weah’s Liberia:  Doctor to patient ratio not 1 to 20,000
Image: Screenshot from messenger conversation.

Our examination revealed that the latest data released by the Liberia Medical and Dental Council on the number of doctors in the country says otherwise.

“The total number of Liberian doctors is 917; of the 917, 407 had been active from 2020/2022 while others had passed, others retired from practising, and others were not coming to renew their license. So we have 510 that fall in this category,” said the Liberia Medical Dental Council report.

On the number of foreign doctors practising and visiting Liberia, the report states that there are 1,170 foreign doctors registered with the Medical Council. Of the 1,170, only 517 had been active since 2020.

“Most of the rest have returned without knowledge of the council while others also passed,” said the Liberia Medical and Dental Council.

But in 2016, the Medical and Dental Council, under President Sirleaf’s administration, released a report that came close to the claimant’s position on the doctor-to-patient ratio in Liberia.

We cannot guarantee whether this report, released eight years ago, was reliable because the author failed to cite the particular year.

Online research brought DUBAWA closer to this 2016 Liberia Medical and Dental report referenced by ‘Yale.’

The Liberia Medical Dental Council, among other things, noted that the total number of Medical doctors who are currently with the Council from 2020/2022 is 924, a figure that slightly contradicts the Deputy Minister of Health, who put the total number of doctors in Liberia at 920.

Conclusion

Given the nature of such a claim and the lack of evidence to back it, the claim is deemed false. In view of the fact that there are between 920 and 947 medical doctors to 4.8 million citizens, a ratio of one doctor to 5,000 patients, the claim by Maerin Kollie that the doctor-patient ratio in Liberia is one to 20,000 is false.  

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with OK FM to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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