Health Minister Deserves Commendation!
On my way to work yesterday, I had a brief conversation with a colleague journalist and brother I met at one of our rendezvous on Rawdon Street in Freetown. During our conversation, he told me his wife has travelled to Accra, Ghana to undergo treatment for obesity. He confided in me that the Ghanaian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone offered to aid her medical treatment she would be undergoing in Ghana since there is no Sierra Leonean specialist that could handle the case locally.
Our conversation reminded me of the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah’s (in photo) remarks in Parliament last Thursday when presenting the Bill titled “the Sierra Leone Council for Postgraduate Colleges of Health Specialists Act 2016” to Parliament for enactment into law. The Bill, which lawmakers from both sides of the House supported, was unanimously passed into law without any squabbles. The Act, therefore, ushered in a new era in the advancement of medical education in Sierra Leone. It makes provision for the setting up of a Council soon to be established for Postgraduate Medical Colleges of Health Specialties to supervise and coordinate the training of specialists doctors like Physicians, Surgeons, Gynecologists, Pediatricians, Radiologists, and Pathologists among other specialties in the country.
But ironically though, Sierra Leone that was once the “Anthems of West Africa” where people from other African countries had sought higher education has today taken the backseat of advancement of education in specialized disciplines which the country needs more than ever before.
It is ridiculous that after the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) was established in 1988 to train our local doctors, it took twenty-two more years for our country to enact a law for the establishment of a Council for Postgraduate Medical Colleges of Heath Specialists to supervise and coordinate the training of specialists’ doctors. It is ridiculous in the sense that Ghanaians and Nigerians who sought education in Sierra Leone in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had long established Postgraduate Medical Colleges that had turned in thousands of specialists’ doctors who are treating numerous diseases that were once referred to the Western world. Many Sierra Leoneans, for example, are being referred to Ghana or Nigeria by our local doctors for treatments because don’t have the specialists in our country.
Though our country has countless pathological and psychiatric cases, yet we have only one Pathologist and one Psychiatrist in the entire country o handle those cases. Even though the two ageing specialists’ doctors have surpassed their official retirement age, they are still in active service because the country hasn’t other specialists to replace them. It is very pathetic for a country that had once taken the lead in education in West Africa and even beyond.
Perhaps the most frustrating situation of our health system was vividly pictured by the Health Minister in his remarks in Parliament last Thursday. He remarked that “according to the World Health Organization (WHO) benchmarks, Sierra Leone with a population of approximately 6 million needs 1,200 doctors. But with the number of registered medical practitioners in the Medical and Dental Council’s register numbering less than 350, the shortage of medical doctors in general and specialists in particular in the country has reached crisis level making the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) predictably untenable in the same way we had challenges measuring up to the benchmarks of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” He also lamented the current interim national development plan for training doctors at the specialist level which requires them to travel to the sub-region and other parts of the world as there are no such facilities locally. The Government, he said, is spending thousands of US Dollars annually to fund the training of these doctors, while he highlighted the numerous disadvantages of this system of training doctors, such as its expensiveness to the Government, the service gap created when they re out of the country, and also the possibility that some of them would seek greener pastures instead of returning home to continue with their services.
I believe the Health Minister’s remarks created the sense of urgency for the speedy enactment of the Bill he presented to Parliament. Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah must be commended for his resilient effort that has ushered in a new era in the advancement of medical education in our beloved country. He may have been motivated by the fact that he is a locally trained doctor and knows how some of his contemporaries have been deprived of training as specialists because such facilities are not available in our country.
Even if Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah leaves office as Minister of Health and Sanitation, he would be remembered for making a niche in the advancement of medical education in this our beloved and the Almighty Father will richly bless him for such unprecedented development. Indeed, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah has proved to Sierra Leoneans that he is one of the few visionary and industrious Ministers truly working in line with President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s Agenda for Prosperity.
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