From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
[PHOTO CAPTIONS CORRECTED] - Mr. President, Serious Problem with the Free Medical in Sierra Leone
By Awareness Times Team
Apr 30, 2010, 17:12

"For example, we know how important it is that life-saving drugs are available in our health centers. So with the help of our international partners, we have bought over ten million dollars worth of drugs and supplies. The bulk of these goods have already arrived in the country and are being distributed around all the Government health facilities. For pregnant women, breast feeding mothers and children under five, these drugs will be available free of charge and I am relying on you the public and health workers to inform me of any malpractices in their supply and distribution"

The above paragraph is culled from the well written speech of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma on the launch of the Free Health Care Programme for Pregnant Women, lactating mothers and children under five at the Princess Christian Memorial Hospital (PCMH) on Fourah Bay Road in Freetown, held on Tuesday 27th April 2010.

Nurse Working Under Stressful Conditions with Influx of Patient Waiting to Receive the Free Medical Service

It could be recalled that it was this paragraph of the Presidentís address that raised more hope and assurance in the minds of Sierra Leoneans, with hopes that Government hospitals across the country will not go short of drugs within any shortest possible time.

On the contrary to these hopes and expectations, it is sad to note that in just two days of the free medical service programme, Government hospitals within the city are running short of drugs. The situation in the provinces is being actively monitored and we will report on them also soon.

Even Lactating Mothers at the Waterloo Government Hospital Suffers the Drugs Shortage

Awareness Times investigation team made a conducted tour to all the Government hospitals in the city to follow the process and above all compliment the Presidentís call.

The dedicated team of Sierra Leonean journalists visited all the government hospitals across the length and breadth of Urban Freetown from Goderich in the west to Waterloo in the east but was disappointed to be informed by Senior Matrons and Doctors heading these hospitals that their hospitals are suffering from impending acute shortage of drugs.

SRN Patricia Conteh of Lumpa Health Center

Speaking to the Awareness Times, the Doctor in-charge for the Goderich Government Hospital, Dr. Baba Musa disappointingly disclosed that in no time, his hospital will run short of drugs due to the fact that he received a minimal and selected supply before the launch of the free medical service on independence day.

"One of the constraints my staff is facing now is how to administer treatment to the hundreds of patients lined up out there waiting to get the free treatment with this limited supply remaining in our store. If no supplies are made soon, we will have to stop the service as there will be no more drugs for that" Dr. Musa lamented.

Nurses Registering Patients at the Wilberforce Community Health Center But With No Drugs Supply for them

Also in the Presidentís speech he spoke about the increase and on-time payment of Doctors and Nurses salaries;

"As you may have heard my Government has doubled the salaries of most health workers and increased salaries even more for our most skilled workers. By making this commitment, we the Government will pay the health workers so that the children and pregnant women of this nation donít have this responsibility"

Pregnant Women Disappointed as they Received Messages of Limited Drugs

On the inverse, Dr. Musa expressed disappointment over the delay of their salaries. According to him, in a meeting with the president before the launch of the free service, the President assured them that they will receive their salaries before the independence day, but that on to press time last evening, they are working under hard conditions but with no salary.

Also expressing concern over the drug shortage, the Doctor in-charge for the Lumley Government Hospital Dr. Buck disclosed to this press that her hospital is also facing the same drug shortage and as a result, had to refer some of her patients to purchase drugs that are not available in her hospital from other private pharmacies. She also expressed concern that there was not sufficient public sensitization as to the free service, adding that as a result, pregnant women are misunderstanding this service. She said since it is free, they are reporting on a daily basis in the hospital to get the free drugs.

Patient Returning Home After Been Informed About Limited Drugs in the Calaba Town Community Health Center

At the Waterloo-Lumpa Government Health Centre, Awareness Times met the State Enrolled Community Health Nurse, Patricia Conteh who complained that their work has been so tedious since the launching of the free health care service. Nurse Conteh said there has been an increase in the number of patients coming for the service and sometimes the center is forced to stay open until after dark to treat everyone trooping there for the free medical; adding that at least 146 Under-5 children, 78 pregnant women and 11 lactating mothers have so far received the free service but that the centre lacked beds and sitting accommodation, as well as other logistics all climaxed with the acute shortage of drugs.

At Calaba Town Government Hospital, the Community Health Officer (CHO) Mr. Charles Keimbe, said they were now receiving doubled number of patients and most are difficult to deal with. He said the free health care demands quality services and must be done carefully in order not to hinder the patients, adding that most of the patients want everything to be done in a rush and they need to take the records carefully; He further disclosed that 162 under 5, 11 breast feeding mothers and 93 pregnant women, have so far surfaced at his clinic since 27th April 2010.

Pregnant Women in Goderich Government Hospital Disappointingly Awaiting Drugs

Mr. Michael Kposowa the CHO for the Wellington Government Community Health Centre said, the turnout is more than what they were expecting. He disclosed that a total of 458 patients have been treated since the launching of the free health care which helped to deplete the drugs that was also running low. At the Rokupr Government Hospital, similar constraints are facing the health personnel.

The team also visited other Government hospitals in the east end of the city which are facing the same problem of acute shortage of drugs and other logistical constraints and no salaries. These included Moeba Community Health Centre, Ross Road Community Health Centre and the Cottage hospital. Many of these locations, especially in the East of Freetown, were poorly staffed and the staff on duty could be seen to be straining under the burden of the free medical care and no salaries.

Many of them appealed to Awareness Times yesterday to please help publicise their plight as they wanted to make the Presidentís vision come true but were suffering especially with shortage of drugs and no salaries.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.