Dr. Ahmad Lamin Samateh, the Gambia's Health Minister, said Thursday one of the causes of maternal mortality in the country is due to the actions of crude abortionists.
He made these remarks on Thursday at the National Assembly in Banjul. He also called on the lawmakers to intercede so that the country's health professionals, who are serving in foreign countries, can come back and join in the fight to curb maternal mortality in the country.
Dr. Samateh expressed optimism that if these professionals return and join them in the fight, within six months the country will see the impact in the fight against the menace.
He said the country still have people who are incompetent (some not medical staff), and women go to such people and procure abortion services, with a particular reference to the most recent one that involved a young lady.
He said: "This man used crude instrument into the woman and perforated the uterus, which has led to severe infection and the woman passed away after being referred to the referral hospital".
He highlighted that the conceptions surrounding blood donation, such as fear for being tested for HIV prior to donating blood, malpractices in certain private health facilities, relating to the lack of licensing system for the private facilities over the years are also among the causes of maternal mortality in the country.
These malpractices, he said, will soon be history, adding that they have put in place a guideline that will be upheld, to ensure that the private facilities carry out their operations in accordance with the guidelines
He frowned at the attitude of some patients, who go to private health facilities to seek medical services, but when they run out of money and are not treated at those facilities, they resort to referral to the public health facilities when they are on the verge of dying.
He said if such patients happen to die at the public health facilities, the blame goes to the facilities, after having spent greater time of their treatment period at the private health facilities.
He further said that inadequate manpower in meeting the number of patients, citing that the average number of doctors in high income countries is 2.9 doctors per 1000 population and for low income countries it has been put to 0.3 per 1000.
He said: "In Gambia currently, we have 0.18 per 1000 population. When it comes nurses and midwives, high income countries 7.1 nurse per 1000 population and in the low income countries 4 per 1000 population, and Gambia currently we have only 1.5 per 1000 population. So already there is a big manpower gap and these are people who are supposed to provide services to our people".
He also decried the absence of many Gambian healthcare professionals who are currently in the diaspora, although they have been trained in the country, is impacting negatively on the healthcare manpower needs of the country.
He urged: "Honorable members, we equally appeal to you to get in touch with them, because many of them are very active and supporting behind the scenes, with some more active with criticisms, but I think we should appeal to them, to come back and join our people to provide the services our people need, because they are contributing in reducing maternal mortality in other people's countries, whilst our people are suffering here".
He said though the salaries are poor, but they have decided to stay put and provide the needed services to the people that deserved it and said that it is high time the country reverse the trend in flight of human capital, of knowledgeable people who are providing services elsewhere, whilst the citizens are suffering here".
He highlighted awareness creation and sensitization, social and economic empowerment of societies, the Ministry's initiative called for the "Kabilobama" which aims to empower and educate women on reproductive health and maternal health among others, as some of their strategies in tackling maternal mortality