Interview with Minister of Health & Sanitation, Hon. Mohamed Daudis Koroma
The Honorable Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mohamed Daudis Koroma (in photo) Â and UNFPA Technical Specialist Reproductive Health, Dr. Peter Sikana were in Washington, DC, USA to attend the Global Conference on â€˜Women Deliverâ€™ forum which was held at the Washington Convention Center from June 7 â€“ 9, 2010. Â
It was covered by 70 Press Organizations and 130 News Reporters who were sending reports around the world on an hourly basis.Â Â
The conference brought together Ministers of Health and Finance from over 30 countries with high maternal and newborn mortality rate. The Ministerâ€™s Forum was to chart the way forward on how to reduce the many premature deaths in their respective countries. The conference also aimed at re-focusing high-level policy attention on maternal and newborn babiesâ€™ health.
The forum comprised of many nations including Asia, Latin America, the European Parliamentarian Forum on Population and Development (EPF), as members of Women Deliver. It also acted in Co-operation with its sister parliamentary networks in Africa, the Forum of African and Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAAPPD),
The Minister of Health, Hon. Mohamed Daudis Koroma in his contribution, told the international body that the stipulations placed on the donated funds sometimes hurt programs that equally needed funding, because Â the funds cannot be used on programs not allocated to though they need funding as well. He also reiterated the need for more funding for Sierra Leoneâ€™s newly implemented Free Health Care for pregnant women and children under five, because the program attracts neighboring countries whose citizens come to use Sierra Leoneâ€™s medical services. Liberians comes through Kailahun and Guinean patients comes through Kambia
I first caught up with the Honorable Mohamed D. Koroma during a part congressional hearing. It was indeed a very hectic week for all the attendees. He was with the embassy personnel Mr. Ibrahim Saspo Sankoh, who was shuttling him to the conference hall when I requested an interview with him. He agreed, but there was not enough time. However, I was able to track him down after nine hours at his Renascence Hotel Room and had a one on one interview.
I am very sorry to interrupt your snooze. I know you are quite exhausted, but this is the only time we both can utilize.
Okay Mr. Koroma lets make use of the few minutes that I have.
Before proceeding further I must express my appreciation for your willingness to grant me this impromptu interview, because I did not think I have a chance knowing how exhausted you are.
Itâ€™s alright Mr. Koroma.
Mr. Koroma you have been in the news lately on many fronts. First and foremost on the Presidentâ€™s semi Pre-Free Health Care hospital inspections around the country. Now Sierra Leone has become the first country in Africa to have Free Health Care of its kind. My question is do you think it is sustainable?
If something has a strong foundation it is bound to last and the structures President Ernest B.Koroma is building are bound to last, because he involved foreign agencies including donor agencies. We are currently having problems and I think they will continue due to our porous boundaries, as we are sandwiched between Guinea and Liberia. Liberians comes through Kailahun while Guineans come through Kambia and use our hospital services thus draining our medicinal supplies and further exhausted our manpower.
I understand that you suspended some medical doctors. Can you educate us on why you took that decision?
Thank you for asking that question. I have a long answer but I will shorten it for you.Â Sierra Leoneâ€™s social sector rather, the entire Nationâ€™s development was frozen in time.Â There were people and employees to lead or manage but there were no leaders. As a result, everybody does as he or she pleases. The employees comes to work when they pleases, in other words employees only look forward to collecting their paychecks without doing the job for which they are employed. It is a common practice for everybody to blame the government, but nobody blames themselves for contributing to making the government not to function efficiently.Â
I was appointed by the President to the Deputy Minister of Health and sanitation position not because I am a medical doctor, but because he has confidence in me and I have to upheld that trust. I have two bosses Iâ€™m answerable to who are H.E .Vice President
Â A.B. Sam Sumana who oversee my work on a daily basis, and the president Dr. Ernest Koroma. Â My job as head of the ministry is more as an administrator. I value and respect the efforts made by the Janitors, the Cooks, the Housekeeping, my Administration and the Medical Doctors. It is a team work. Whoever evades his or her work will affect the entire department. Shirking has become the name of the game for too long and some people are quite complacent and seemed to resist changes for one reason or another. Â I hope I answered your question.
You really tried but let me put it this why did you suspend the medical practitioners?
Mr. A. Koroma, Medical doctors are role models to many of us and if the attitudinal change we embarked on is to succeed it has to start from the top officials to bottom.
Recently you fired twelve employees from the Kissy Mental Hospital. What led you to take such drastic decision?
If twelve nurses are caught feeding on the patients meal who knows how long this practice has been going on. If we translate it to Leones and Cents do you know how much it cost the government per year?Â The patients have nowhere else to feed but these nurses have homes to return everyday and feed themselves, apart they receive a monthly salary.
Are you under pressure to produce or to perform?
No I am not under any pressure (as he smile).Â Did I answer your question?
Again let me ask the question this way. Are you afraid of being terminated if you donâ€™t perform as expected?
Arolyn, a person who gives you a job can equally take it from you at will. If I do my job and I believe that I did my very best and loose that job, my conscience is clear and I wonâ€™t carry any burden of guilt.
What will you say to those who accuse you of trying to turn the health department to a military entity?
Well that is tough, because you canâ€™t stop people from forming their own opinions. If you are handsome people will talk about you, the same goes if you are ugly. This All Peopleâ€™s Congress administration has a big job to do. Changing a forty years believe is not an easy task. The changes we embrace are for the right reasons and we are on the right cause. A lot of people in high places will resist them, but these are the role models who should rule by example. Name calling is nothing new, but I have got a job to do and that is to move my ministry forward from the demise it once was.
Are you in competition with the First Ladyâ€™s program the Women Initiative for Safer Health (WISH) in the villages?
No, not at all. It compliments what we are doing.
Mrs. Koromaâ€˜s program works side by side with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. It is the best thing that ever happened to our women in Sierra Leone. The First lady Mrs. Sia Koromaâ€™s determination is making significant progress and improvement in the lives of our women and children.
Honorable, the APC North American Branch secured 38 Dialysis machines, and through the financial help from the Vice President. H.E. A. B. Sam Sumana the Branch recently shipped those Dialysis machines to your department, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Freetown. Did you received them and how will your office use them to benefit the intended consumers?
We received them and we have distributed them according to the regional need. We are constantly monitoring the way they are being used for the benefit of the entire citizenry
What help are you expecting from Diaspora in terms of the machines to be operational?
We need people who actually know how to use these modern equipments in order to be utilized to their fullest potential. Additionally, we will need help to support their maintenance and supplies.
Mr. Koroma, what did you like and what did you hate about your job?
I like my employees, and what I hated is when I am not at work. I like to stay busy.
How will you like to be remembered or what legacy would you like to leave behind?
I like to be remembered as the Minister who improved the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, because I left it better than I inherited it.
In closing, how will you equate yourself or can you draw some parallels between you and Hon. Afsatu Kabba?
We are both citizens and we belong to the same political party. We are both equally committed to implement the Presidentâ€™s vision i.e. the attitudinal change. It is a new thing. Most Parliamentarians who are committed to push these changes will gather a significant amount of enemies, and this is the problem Afsatuu Kabba is facing. However, she was charged with many counts, but if six or more counts were considered irrelevant on the first day of the hearing, I think in the end she will be vindicated.
Again I thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to interview you.
Thank you for the interview.
By Arolyn I. Koroma, Washington, D. C. â€“ USA
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