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Liberia’s first homegrown physician anaesthesia providers

Liberia's first physician anaesthesia providers

An unique and innovative WFSA-led programme is tackling Liberia’s shortage in anaesthesia provision by training physicians to become the country’s first home-grown physician anaesthesia providers. WFSA’s Head of Programmes, Amal Paonaskar outlines why programmes like these are so vital.

WFSA workforce survey showed that in the WHO Africa Region, only five countries had a Physician Anaesthesia Provider (PAP) density > 1 per 100,000 population. The minimum recommended number of PAPs is 5 per 100,000 population.

Liberia, with a population of almost 5 million, has never had a physician anaesthetist of Liberian origin working in the country. Provision of anaesthesia is reliant on approximately 70 anaesthetic nurses. Physician anaesthesia providers play a key role in developing the knowledge, skills and supporting non-physician providers, particularly for difficult cases. They also play a central role in maintaining standards, assisting in career development, leadership and in the effective management of intensive care.

Dr. Maimie (right) in discussion with Senior Registrar and the ICU Matron inthe Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano, Nigeria.

In 2018, the WFSA established the Liberia Anaesthesia Capacity Building Project in partnership with the Liberian Medical and Dental Association, the Nigerian Society of Anaesthetists and the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital. The project aimed to address the lack of PAPs in Liberia by supporting Liberian physicians to complete the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) Diploma in Anaesthesia by training at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano, Nigeria. The first cohort was comprised of four Liberian Doctors – Dr. Ernest Kokolee, Dr. Levi D. Korheina, Dr. Wiyatta Diggs and Dr. Kpehe Jig Maimie.

While delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was still largely successful with Dr. Korheina, Dr. Diggs and Dr. Maimie completing their training in late 2020. Dr. Diggs has since returned to Liberia and begun working as a physician anaesthetist. Dr. Korheina and Dr. Maimie have returned to Kano to continue their anaesthesia training with the intention of completing the next level of certification by 2022.

This project has developed the first physician anaesthesia providers of Liberian origin. After the successful pilot, the WFSA will continue to support two physicians from the first cohort to continue their anaesthesia training under WACS with the intention of producing the first anaesthesiologists in Liberia. The WFSA also hopes to expand the programme to enable more physicians to train and complete the Diploma in Anaesthesia certification.    

This has project has been made possible by generous contributions from Diamedica, the Association of Anaesthetists, the Shalimar Trust and Dr Keith Thomson.