By Rodney Sieh
Monrovia – An investigation by FrontPageAfrica has found that Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah has allegedly been diverting resources, including ambulances, fuel materials, and equipment from the Ministry and the John F. Kennedy Medical Center for her personal clinic, Hope for Women International. Prior to becoming minister, Dr. Jallah ran the Hope for Women located on the A.B. Tolbert Road in Paynesville and had another branch on the Marshall Road under construction.
Minister’s Clinic Designated as Stationary Site
The clinic on the Marshall Road is finally completed, though it has been idled for some time, until recently when health authorities announced that it is being used as one of two stationary laboratory site in the COVID-19 fight in Liberia. A visit to the site Monday found the gates closed and only security manning the premises. Her other clinic on A.B. Tolbert Road is still active.
The Health Ministry and the National Public Health Institute(NPHIL)recently announced that sample collection teams comprising two stationary laboratory teams at the 14 military hospital will collect samples of suspected cases while two stationary teams at the minister’s Marshall Hope for Women will collect specimens from suspected cases, using two mobile laboratory teams to collect specimens at the quarantine centers.”
When contacted the minister told FrontPageAfrica that only inquiries were made about the site at Marshall being used but it has not yet commenced. FrontPageAfrica requested the minister to provide additional details to an inquiry regarding a litany of allegations, but she was been unable to do so. Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe was also informed and copied on the inquiry to Madam Jallah.
In addition to the alleged diversion of resources, the minister also has some senior doctors at the JFK, working as consultants to her clinic on A.B. Tolbert Road, one of only two antenatal care facilities in the country with the other located at JFK.
JFK vs. Hope: Competing Priorities
Following her appointment, Dr. Jallah misled the President into violating the Act creating the JFK medical Center which clearly states that the Board of Directors of the Center shall appoint the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
The JFK Board on which Bishop Isaac Winkler serves selected the CMO at the time, but Dr. Jallah rejected it and ignored the Board to choose her friend and employee at her clinic who applied but came last among five applicants to be appointed by the President of Liberia as CMO.
The chosen CMO serves Dr. Jallah as a consultant pediatrician at her Hope for women clinic on the AB Tolbert Road in Paynesville where she is always present instead of serving full-time at the John F. Kennedy hospital, raising serious conflict of interest thereby putting the Liberian people’s health at risk.
Currently, Dr. Jallah who is the Chairman of the JFK Board has again allowed the JFK’s CEO Dr. Jerry Brown to abandon the full-time job as the Administrator at the JFK to take on the case management at the 14th military hospital when other qualified medical doctors such as Dr. Philip Ireland an internist, Dr. Emmanuel Ekynebah, and others who could have served in that capacity considering that the JFK is the major referral hospital for Liberia.
Comptroller is Minister’s In-Law
Recently, one of the clinic’s ambulance was seen at the Center Street Mattar store collecting printers, stationary and other items on the Liberia government account. An in-depth investigation by FPA has also gathered that the minister, since taking over the post has brought on several of her close friends and relatives to work along with her.
Among them, Mr. Francis A. Taylor, her brother-in-law, married to her older sister Charlotte Taylor. Mr. Taylor, a brother of former President Charles Taylor, is the Chief Financial Officer at the ministry, in charge of Finance. Taylor previously worked as a regional director for Kentucky Fried Chicken in the US. Her sister’s son, Victor Kasser, a former US Marine, previously worked as the General Administrator at the Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Tapitta between 2018 & 2019 before being relieved for unexplained reasons.
The report comes amid mounting criticisms of Liberia’s handling of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic which has now recorded 59 cases as of Monday, with eight new cases, and six deaths to date. As the cases skyrocket, the Catholic Hospital and the Jahmale Laboratory are said to be encountering massive infections of staffers. Elbert Laboratory, along with Jahmale have both been closed to the public. The report also comes as the country is in the midst of a three-week lockdown now stirring controversy amid numerous clashes between police and citizens simply looking for food to eat.
Over the past two days, police, dressed in riot gears have been patrolling the city in search of violators of the lockdown.
Conflict of Interest – Pain in Liberia’s Butt
The issue of conflict of interest and use of donor money regarding the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic is said to be putting some donors on edge. Last week, the World Bank committed US$15 million to help Liberia to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, said the Bank has currently made available US$1.5 million to help the government to start the fight against the coronavirus while they are working on making available in total US$6 million that is expected to be in the country within six days.
According to Minister Tweah, US$7.5 million will come through the World Bank for the emergency response commitment. “Therefore, you can say the World Bank is bringing in $15 million for the fight against the virus.”
He said US$6 million will come from the World Bank based on what he referred to as ‘contingency’ in the coming days. The Minister also disclosed that the International monetary fund has made available US$50 billion globally for countries, and therefore the government is making every effort by speaking to relevant authorities to make a request because the virus will have a trickle-down effect on the economy.
Donors are concerned about how Liberia intends to manage the money.
A similar issue of conflict of interest is arising regarding the National Public Health Institute of Liberia where Dr. Mosaka Fallah, prior to taking on the job as NPHIL Director, headed the Non-Governmental Organization, Rescue Place international, now said to be part of the MCC’s 6000 Active Case Finders, preventing a potential conflict of Interest for the NPHIL boss.
Ironically, Fallah, during the Ebola virus outbreak formed a group that went by the name of Community-Based Initiative, which was one of the groups aiding NPHIL with active case finding for Ebola. That group, FPA has now learned was turned into an NGO after Ebola and is said to be one of the groups sidelined to aid the MCC trace Coronavirus contacts.
Fallah has surprisingly been left out of the final COVID-19 National Response Team announced by its head, Madam Mary Broh on Monday. The issue of conflict of interest has dogged Liberia for quite some time, going back to the last administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Last month, President George Manneh Weah’s pick for Agriculture Minister, Madam Jeanine Milly Cooper, announced that she had put her shares in her Fabrar Liberia Incorporated into what she termed as “Blind Trust.” The Agriculture Minister insinuated that her action is intended to avoid any conflict of interest with her new role at the Ministry of Agriculture, something Madam Jallah has not done since becoming Health Minister two years ago.
Haunted by ‘Wrongful Death’ Saga
Prior to becoming minister, Madam Jallah was embroiled in a controversy regarding the ‘wrongful death’ of Pastor Desiree Fahnbulleh who died on December 8, 2016, at age 41 during childbirth at the hospital. Mrs. Fahnbulleh had a 3rd and 4th child by C-section. She was advised to do bi-lateral tubal litigation to prevent another pregnancy which was done at the hospital, according to the complaint filed by the family with the Court.
Her family filed a US$6 million action for damages against the hospital with the 6th Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. At the time, the Liberia Medical Dental and Dental Council took the minister to task, noting: “While we consider her intention to assist in good faith, it is difficult to ignore the death of a patient who could have been referred or for whom specialist care could have been sought.” Mrs. Fahnbulleh got pregnant a year later, but refused to abort based on her religious beliefs, the complaint disclosed.
On November 24, 2016, Mrs. Fahnbulleh went to the hospital for a regular check-up but was advised by Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, the head doctor at the facility that the C-section was scheduled for December 18, 2016, but the ultrasound expected time for delivery was January 2, 2017.
Dr. Jallah traveled on December 8, leaving Dr. Lorraine Cooper in charge. Prior to her scheduled delivery date, Mrs. Fahnbulleh made a regular visit to the hospital but was advised upon examination by Dr. Cooper that she needed emergency surgery the same day. The deceased’s husband, Larry Fahnbulleh, said prior to his arrival at the hospital that day, his wife was already sent to the surgery room. He said he didn’t consent neither his wife consented to the surgery as the space for signature on the consent form was empty.
According to him, the hospital asked him to sign before seeing his newborn and wife, which he did, and the baby was given to him but wasn’t given the opportunity to see his wife. He was later informed via a phone call that his wife had expired, he said. At the time, Jallah, responding to the lawsuit said the deceased was tested positive 22 months after the tubal ligation procedure, dismissing the claim that the deceased got pregnant a year after her tubal ligation. She denied persuading the deceased from giving birth abroad as stated by her husband in count 4 of the complaint.
Dr. Cooper and the nurse on duty were suspended for six months following the investigation. The autopsy report which FPA obtained at the time identified “shock” as the cause of death. But Dr. Jallah and the hospital condemned the autopsy report, terming it as incomplete, uncertain, questionable, and inconclusive failure to state the dosage of a chemical administered. The LMDC had their investigation at the time and suspended Dr. Jallah ‘s license.