Gambia: Minister Samateh Says Plan to Upgrade Health Facilities Is in the Offing

Gambia's Health Minister, Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, has told lawmakers that the Health Ministry is working to ensure that the needed renovations are carried out at the Foday Kunda Health Center

He added they are working to upgrading the Baja Kunda Minor Health Center in the Wuli East, URR.

Minister Samateh said this on Wednesday 2nd December 2020 at the Legislative House in Banjul.

He said this in response to the question raised by Hon. Suwaibou Touray, Member for Wuli East who asked him whether the Health Ministry has immediate plans to repair the water and power systems, as well as renovate the entire staff quarters.

This Hon. Touray said, would provide accommodation for the staff, with a view to encouraging health personnel stay and engage in effective service delivery for the catchment areas.

Minister Samateh said: "The Ministry of Health is in the process of doing a proper assessment of the works that need to be done at the Foday Kunda Health Center. This is intended to overhaul the entire health facility, as part of the country's drive to upgrade and modernize health facilities in the country".

He however said that due to the urgency of the situation in Foday Kunda Health center, their team will immediately work on the addressing the water and electricity problems even before the wider works.

Hon. Suwaibou Touray asked: Asked by Suwaibou Touray to tell Parliament the time frame for the work, Minister Samateh responded that he visited Foday Kunda Health Center recently, and thus have a very good idea as to how the situation is, adding that they went with the maintenance team and the team is currently doing the assessment and have identified the problems from the water tanks that are situated in the ceilings and pipes that are embedded in the walls and are also leaking and the septic tanks that are also broken.

Samateh said: "We are working on it very quickly, of course the procurement processes sometimes take a little bit long but the procurement process has started and we are hoping that within the next six to eight weeks, something would have started in there with regards to the renovation".

"The Baja Kunda Minor Health Center has been upgrading to a Major Health center by the Ministry of Health, which should go hand in hand with the upgrading of standards as well. Can the Health Minster inform this assembly, what plans his Ministry has if any, to build a standard theater and a lab, to cater for minor operations and reduce the referral of such cases to Basse or Bansang?" asked the Member for Wuli East.

Minister Samateh replied: "Some facilities in the country are going to be upgraded to various levels. It has come to the attention of the Ministry that quite a number of facilities are not functioning according to their designation. Bajakunda health center is one of those and the Ministry will work on building capacity in the facility, to be able to fulfill its mandate as a major health center".

He added: "in this vein, Baja Kunda will get a health laboratory, a blood bank and an operation theater".

Member for Kiang West, Kajali Fofana, asked the Minister the reason why some of the health facilities are below standards as admitted by the Health Minister.

He said: "why they (health facilities) are like that, we found them like that, but we realize that something needs to be done about what needs to be done there , because they have to be functional. Of course many factors play role in this and one of them is the Recourse Based Funding (RBF) that was supported by the World Bank".

He added they have realized that they did quite a lot of work with RBF, but they are not sometimes satisfy with the quality of the work that have been going on and they hope to do a lot of monitoring, but also as a country the number of trained people they have is limited.

Member for Serre Kunda, Halifa Sallah also asked the Health Minister, whether he (the Minister) would agree that poor maintenance culture, has been the basis for the deterioration many of the facilities, and whether the Ministry has any plan or policy to ensure that a maintenance culture would be maintained after upgrading or rebuilding of the said facilities

Samateh replied: "I totally agree actually especially when it is public property. When it is government property unfortunately, people do not take good care of it and it is left to deteriorate. It is a sad situation and as a Ministry our estate is very big with a lot of facilities across the country and currently, we have a very small poorly staff Maintenance Unit".

He averred: "We want to bring that up to the level of an engineering department that will have an estate manager who will be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that our facilities are kept to standards".

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