Health and Sanitation Minister, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah has said that despite the numerous challenges within the Free Health Care Initiative, President Koroma is still committed to promote maternal, newborn and child health care across the country.
Speaking at the commissioning and inauguration ceremony of the Lion Heart Medical Centre ultra-modern Isolation Ward in Yele at the Gbonkolenken chiefdom in the Tonkolili district, Dr. Fofanah reiterated President Koroma’s Post-Ebola Recovery priorities, adding that he is poised to fight against maternal, newborn and child mortality as well as building a resilient health system in the country.
He reminded his audience about the many lives saved since the launch of the Free Health Care in 2010, with the removal of cost which was a barrier, and now has established the National Emergency Medical Service (NEMS) to fill the gap and strengthen the ambulance services referral system countrywide.
The Minister opined that not acknowledging the Free Health Care initiative is a disservice to the government, adding that if people fail to accept the fact that there are unpatriotic citizens and saboteurs in the system then the problem for the beneficiaries remain challenging.
He also spoke of the establishment of a Para- Medical School in Makeni to train middle level cadre on Task shifting with a view to performing minor surgery thereby easing the problem of minor operations to the main referral hospitals. This initiative the Minister said would help build the ministry’s human resource for health capacity, and create jobs for over 1000 youths.
Commenting on the newly built ultra- modern Isolation Ward, Dr. Fofanah described the structure as a magnificent facility that the Government is proud of noting that it will not only serve the Yele community but communities far beyond the Tonkolili district. He reiterated that the initiative is a strategic move to access health care, describing health care services as a divine contribution to human existence.
The Minister noted the Donor support to the Medical Centre and to the vulnerable and less privilege by way of complimenting Government’s efforts, and expressed gratitude and appreciation for the resourceful partnership with the District Health Management Team.
“The challenges and constraints on funding and expansion have been noted, and will plan a road map to strengthen collaboration”, opined Dr. Fofanah.
Bringing the curtain down the Minister urged the people to do the voter registration, expressing its importance during and after the elections for both the present and future integrity as a Sierra Leonean.
Lion Heart Medical Centre Country Director, Mr. Ruurd Van Rooijen said the Lion Heart Medical Centre was founded in 2010 and started as a small day time clinic with only one building.
He said in 2012 Dr. Erdi Huizenga came to the hospital as Medical Officer In-Charge and under her inspiring leadership expanded and developed the Medical Centre in to a second line, high quality and affordable hospital.
Mr. Ruurd Van Rooijen informed his audience that in 2012 they build a new ward for children, male and female and when the building was completed, there was cholera outbreak and half of the building was used as an isolation facility for cholera patients.
He said in 2014 during the planning to further improve the hospital with numerous supporting facilities, the Ebola Viral Disease outbreak came and devastated the hospital, adding that despite the outbreak, further development of the hospital continued and in 2015 a garage and workshop was constructed and a new bore hole was drilled with solar driven pump to supply the hospital with 24 hours running water.
More importantly for the Centre he said was their wish to build a permanent isolation ward to always be prepared for any outbreak of contagious diseases, and to be able to act swiftly to contain such outbreaks.
Giving an overview of the Lion Heart Medical Centre, the Country Director said after more than two years of preparation a large solar energy park with 72 panels and 48 batteries was installed, making the hospital completely self-supporting for its electricity demand.
He said the Lion Heart Medical Centre has developed and grown very fast not only in infrastructure and medical activities but also in the number of staff from five in 2010 to over 60 now predominantly from Yele and its surrounding communities and commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for their support to the Centre during the Ebola outbreak.
The Medical Officer in-Charge, Lion Heart Medical Centre, Dr. Erdi Huizenga said in February 2012 she came to Yele with the task of building a functional health care hospital and commended Maria Hernandez for a great job in the hospital.
She said most of the junior staff of the hospital came from Gbonkolenken and was trained, while some senior staff with qualifications were hired and brainstormed about the future of the hospital.
Dr. Huizenga recalled on September 8, 2014, one of the darkest day in the hospital when they lost Joseph, one of their staff to Ebola. She said besides the sorrow and as management was trying to consult what to do, Dr. Augustine Jemissa the then Medical Superintendent and team from the Magburaka Government Hospital came to Yele and quarantine all the staff and the remaining patients in the hospital.
She informed her audience that during that period Pa Jalloh and Foday started having symptoms and were taken to Magburaka, and later Eric and Idrissa started to show signs and were found to have Ebola. She said hospital lack isolation ward, but with advises from specialists from WHO and CDC they could transform the new ward into a temporarily isolation ward and commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for their support with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other commodities to function as a holding Centre.
The Medical Officer In-Charge thanked the people of Lion Heart Foundation in the Netherlands for the great job of supporting the hospital in filling the gaps during the Ebola outbreak.
Dr. Erdi Huizenga told the gathering that the building is dedicated to Joseph Conteh, Abdulai Jalloh, Idrissa Fofannah and Eric Duwai, as they lost their lives serving the hospital which they would always remember them for, adding that “a quality building is a real help in keeping proper hygiene standards”.
Other highlights include key statements from the Parliamentary Representative, Constituency 063 and Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Health, Dr. Abdulai Sesay, the District Medical Officer Tonkolili, Dr. Augustine Jemissa, cutting of the tape for the official opening of the Isolation Ward by the Minister of Health and a conducted tour of the facilities led by the Medical Officer In-Charge, Dr. Erdi Huizenga.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.