Standard Times (Freetown)

8 June 2006

Sierra Leone: Tonkolili District May Become a Health Hazard

If urgent steps are not taken soon there are indications that the northern region especially the Tonkolili district will soon face a health disaster following the departure of Medicine San Frontiers (MSF), the only medical team that used to cover the area from the Magburaka Government Hospital.

For the past couple of years since resettlement of people in that area was effected, the Magburaka Government Hospital, which lacks a gynecologist for OBS cases especially complicated ones that demand emergency surgical operations, has been serving as the regional referrer center for emergency cases handled by the MSF team.

What has becoming a worry to the stakeholders and medical officials in the district is the departure of the MSF, which is a signal that if government does not step in immediately with a contingency plan to address the problem, it could later result into a health disaster for people in that part of the country.

Another worry of the people is the terrible status of the theatre room for maternity, which has not been rehabilitated since 1978 when it was rehabilitated y the Sierra Leone State Lottery Company (Lotto).

Added to this, many residents of Tonkolili district especially Magburaka town, where the hospital is located, disclose that the hospital needs a Blood Bank and an expansion of the maternity room.

Despite, the immense effort of the current District Medical Official (DMO), Dr. Alie Wurie to facilitate the rehabilitation of the hospital quarters, improve the primary health unit (PHU), increase immunization and other efforts to eliminate the Yellow Fever disease in the district, there is still the looming danger that if government or humanitarian NGOs do not step in to salvage the problems facing the hospital, the departure of MSF team will tell negatively on the hospital and people of the Tonkolili district.

Another pressing and alarming concern in relation to the health of people in the Tonkolili District is the acute shortage of nurses, since instead of 280 nurses that is required for the district, it can not boast of half this number.

However, a senior nurse at the government hospital in Freetown whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons told Standard Times that the shortage of nurses is a countrywide problem that can be found in all health centers around the country.

Reasons advanced include; that very few qualified nurses will sacrifice to work for government after three years training considering the ridiculous government salary and conditions of service, which stipulate that new nurses can only be made permanent after working for three years as volunteers.

The nurse added that salary for nurses is so discouraging that most qualified nurses rather prefer to leave this country or work with private practitioners, resulting to the shortage in the country.

However, if government is talking of fighting poverty, the health sector should be of paramount concern, because a healthy man is a rich man.

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