|President Koroma Inspects Health Facilities in Mattru Jong, Bonthe, Pujehun, Bo, and Moyamba|
President Ernest Bai Koroma today made a whirlwind helicopter tour of the southern province in cross-checking health facilities as to their readiness for the April 27th 2010 deadline for the commencement of the plan for the free delivery of services and medication to pregnant women, lactating mothers, and under-five children. The on-the-spot visitations took the President and entourage first to Mattru Jong (mainland Bonthe District), Bonthe Island, Pujehun, Bo, and Moyamba. Accompanied by Deputy Minister
of Health Mohamed D. Koroma, senior government medical officials, and representatives from supporting organizations including UNFPA, UNICEF, and the National Authorising Office, President Koroma ensured he visited every government medical facility in each town, inspecting available infrastructure, talking to health officials, and sympathizing with patients. What the party discovered was that most facilities would certainly be ready by April 27th, especially with various assurances from the UNICEF and UNFPA representatives that funding is available for the completion of most projects and that all the drugs for the programme will be directly distributed to their various destinations.
In Mattru Jong, the need was discovered for the provision of a standby generator for the cold room, plus shelves, air-conditioners, and pallets for the stores, while also exploring the possibility of providing solar energy to the laboratory and theatre at the UBC-administered hospital. There is as yet no blood bank and no pipe-borne water, issues that are intensively being handled by UNFPA, the local council and Sierra Rutile Company (which has pledged to assist especially with electricity).The biggest problem for the hospital, it was discovered, was the fact that due to its seeming dual ownership (partly mission, partly government), the hospital was not entitled to financial and other allocations as other government hospitals. The need for a stakeholders' meeting on the way forward was therefore suggested.
There was also a problem of staff, as the hospital is acutely short of personnel, with only one doctor to a facility regarded as a referral hospital. There is also a problem of mobility, as there is no vehicle in the hospital, for which President Koroma ordered the immediate allocation of an ambulance and a utility vehicle as a temporary measure. The cables to an allocated generator were reportedly stolen the day after installation, for which local council officials have taken responsibility for replacement. President Koroma also insisted that the whole hospital compound must be fenced. However, it was discovered that not all the work in this hospital would be completed by 27th April.
Renovation work on the Bonthe Government Hospital is still to start, as the project is still in its bidding stage. However UNFPA and UNICEF would go on with the provision of other facilities including drugs and other equipment before April 27. The construction will include a 30-bed maternity ward, children and female wards, and an extension to the laboratory and operating theatre, which are currently ill-equipped but would be equipped before April 27.
The UNFPA assured of providing water, electricity and other facilities, as the funds for these are already available.
The hospital already has a solar-powered laboratory, but unfortunately there is no doctor on the island. President Koroma ordered that, "We have to have a doctor here. We must motivate doctors to come to the island as there are thousands of souls to be saved here."
The hospital has a generator for the operating theatre, which itself needs improvement and extension. Generally, it is in need of water, electricity, redesigning and refurbishment. The President noted that in the provision of facilities, the island "must be made as independentas possible," even as UNFPA, UNICEF, and the local council pledged to each play their part in the upgrade of the hospital for the free health care delivery package.
Pujehun probably had the worst-case scenario, as it was discovered that the contractors for the construction of the medical store have lagged behind and would certainly miss the April 27 deadline. An alternative (Plan B) was however agreed upon to keep the coming drugs temporarily in a room within the hospital premises which would need some refurbishment before storage. President Koroma however ordered the review and possible termination of the contract and the need for a new bidding process.
In the hospital itself, there are inadequate beds and medical equipment. There is however adequate electricity supply, and the new maternity section under construction to have a capacity of 70 beds is approximated to be completed on 31st July 2010. A handy motor-bike 'ambulance' was inspected by the President who asked for the full distribution list of such bikes sent to various hospitals across the country.
In Bo, medical personnel assured the President that they are prepared for April 27th 2010. But rehabilitation work will not be completed within the timeframe, though drugs and other equipment would have been provided. It was discovered that the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) is working towards providing pipe-borne water by the target date. There is the problem of nurses having been posted there not reporting for duty due mainly to lack of accommodation. President Koroma intervened by authorizing the Resident Minister, the local council and the Mayor to address the accommodation issue.
The President was taken to the orthopedic and eye sections. The hospital is in need of a standby generator and other basic facilities which would be provided before 27th April. He was also taken on a conducted tour of a ward of women with urinary problems, a project that attracts patients from neighbouring countries.
There are beds without mattresses and personnel demanded 200 beds just for the children's ward. President Koroma was particularly impressed with work being done at the eye department.
Moyamba has a newly built state-of the art, World Bank-funded hospital which is 100% complete in terms of construction, but only needs some interior installations which will have certainly been put in place before 27th April, even as the UNICEF representative revealed that virtually all the equipment and beds have been procured and merely awaiting distribution.
President Korma could not hide his admiration for the excellent work at the Moyamba Hospital, and retorted, "I am very pleased with Moyamba. This is about the best work I have seen thus far."
However, there are grey issues with regards the hospital accessing funds through the local council for utilities like providing fuel for the ambulance, for which President Korma urged the local council to always make available adequate funds to the hospital, even as the UNICEF representative revealed that funds are already available and will be released soon for the hospital's day-to-day operations.
In all the hospitals he visited, President Koroma was greeted by cheering and beaming nurses, doctors, and patients, at one point continuously chanting "bonadaysia sene-o".
The President continues his inspection tour tomorrow April 1st 2010 to Kenema, Kailahun, and Kono in the east.
The Press Secretariat
31 March 2010