The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, who is exactly one year in office, has highlighted the achievements of the Ministry under his tenure. According to Prof Alpha T. Wurie, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) has scored remarkable achievements in decentralizing quality service delivery nationally under the ‘New Direction’ agenda of the Bio administration.
Those outstanding achievements, The Health Newspaper learnt, can be attributed to the current political leadership of the Ministry with Prof Alpha Wurie at the helm and Dr. Anthony Augustine Sandy as the Deputy Minister, as well as the crème de la crème of professionals and administrators working towards the ‘New Direction’ agenda of the Bio administration.
As a visionary and result-oriented leader, the Minister of Health and Sanitation in his maiden address to staff of the Ministry in a meeting held on 7th May, 2018, Prof Alpha Wurie emphasized that he was determined to bridge the existing wide gap between Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) and headquarters in his tenure.
He assured that his administration would work hand in glove with the entire Ministry staff and health partners to prevent the people from dying of curable diseases. Though Prof Alpha Wurie is determined to transform the country’s health sector, yet his ambitious vision could go a long way to be transformed into reality, especially when there is evidence of poor hygiene practices coupled with extremely high ignorance among Sierra Leoneans in vulnerable communities nationwide.
Prof Alpha Wurie however emphasized the need for inclusive wealth and development through quality health service delivery at all levels, noting that he inherited several unfinished projects he is determined to review and implement in line with President Julius Maada Bio’s ‘New Direction’ agenda, given his wealth of experience as academic, professional, entrepreneur and seasoned politician of great repute.
Apart from the ongoing human resource development across all cadres of the health sector, various infrastructure projects are in progress across the country, notably, the Kerry Town 500-bed Health Village with modern equipment for emergency and other major health cases, oxygen factory, national blood bank and national warehouse for safe preservation of drugs and other essential medical commodities.
100-bed ultra-modern health facilities are reported to be nearing completion at Lumley, Kingharman Road, Macauley Street and Rokupa in the Western Area Urban, and Waterloo and Leicester in the Western Area Rural. These facilities, when completed, would reduce burden on the main referral hospitals of Connaught and Princess Christian Maternal (PCMH) as the simmering population of the municipality by far outweighs these facilities. The Minster however believes that under the ‘New Direction’ agenda, the country’s health sector will be capacitated in every aspect for quality health service delivery nationwide.
The infrastructure development is also evident in plans for the refurbishment of all regional hospitals in the municipality, Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko, as well as advanced plans to encourage the globally acceptable public/private partnership to boost quality health service delivery on grounds that Government cannot do it alone and as a result, there should be collaborative efforts among Government, partners and the private sector to put the synergy together to transform sector.
Like he made a niche in the temple of fame during the implementation of the ‘Sababu Education’ Project during the Kabbah administration between 1996 and 2007, when he was Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Alpha Wurie also seems determined, more than ever before, to deliver to the expectation of Sierra Leoneans again. In less than 12 months as Minister, his Ministry has installed 220 solar power refrigerators with 293 motorbikes to enhance outreach programmes to ensure that health information and services reach the doorsteps of every Sierra Leonean, especially in the hard-to-reach areas in the provinces.
Under his political leadership, the Free Healthcare Initiative that was introduced by the former Koroma administration on 27th April, 2010 has not only been implemented effectively, it has also been transformed into people’s ownership with the direct involvement of various stakeholders, including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), traditional authorities, the media and even beneficiaries in the distribution and general implementation process. Besides, the Government has gradually started taking over the Free Healthcare Initiative when it provided 10% funding in 2018; it will provide 30% in 2019 and 50% in 2020 so that it would be transformed into national ownership instead of being donor-driven. The current situation indicates that the Free Healthcare Initiative, like the free quality education, is free but not absolutely free as resources to procure drugs come from either our national taxpayers or our development partners and should therefore be handled with extreme care.
Besides, the Government has revitalized cost recovery programme and the Free Healthcare has been extended to Ebola Survivors and the physically challenged, as well as free medical examination to rape victims and prison inmates.
Under the current political dispensation, accessibility to essential medical supplies by pregnant, lactating women and under 5 (five) children has increased by over 80% and hence, reduction in maternal and infant mortality, while routine immunization and vaccination and other antenatal care, including malaria treatment for women and under five children, have been scaled up over the past couple of months.
Also, under the Integrated Support Supervision in collaboration with the Health Management Information System, top Ministry officials now work with Monitoring and Evaluation Officers in the field to provide on-the-spot check at all facilities to get firsthand information on progress and challenges in the sector with the view of enhancing proper planning to improve on services.
Human Resource Development
On the international front, the MoHS has done extremely well under the ‘New Direction’ agenda. Under bilateral and multilateral understanding, the MoHS has initiated a number of human capacity development and programmes for health service providers across all cadres to undertake both national and international training in Paediatric, Anaesthetic and Reproductive Healthcare. Apart from the 4000 ongoing recruitment of various health workers, additional 200 SECHN Nurses have been awarded scholarships to be upgraded to SRN level, while Maternal and Community Health Aid are being encouraged to be upgraded to SECHN. The Human Resource for Health has developed a rural area retention strategy and information system to motivate and track attendance to maximize service delivery.
Again, the Ministry in less than 12 months has signed agreement for corps of expatriate Medics from Cuba, Nigeria and Southern Africa to augment our national health professionals to address the perennial health issues, whilst it has finalized plans with the Government of the People’s Republic of China to transform the Jui Chinese Aid Hospital to a postgraduate teaching hospital to provide specialized training for our Doctors and other practitioners. At the same time, the Ministry has also contracted the services of retired medical personnel who are still capable to give out the best towards national development.
With strong advocacy and negotiation skills under the current leadership, Government has increased budgetary allocation to 10% with additional funds sourced from the recurrent account that provides bio-hazard, uncalled and location allowances to all health workers irrespective of your position.
Under the current political leadership, plans are also firmed up by the Health Ministry to devolve laboratory and clinical services in all primary and secondary referral facilities nationwide, while an intensive training programme has already been rolled out for ICT and Laboratory Technicians to operate the newly installed X-Ray devices in health facilities.
Another development is that the Minister of Health and Sanitation recently unveiled a state-of-the-earth digital laboratory test device for TB at Lakka Hospital. This was replicated at the main referral facilities in high burden districts with the installation of Gene-Xpert machines.
Another notable development is that the Government has in its wisdom decided to go to the rescue of the Catholic Hospital in Panguma, Kenema District and the Nixon Memorial Methodist Hospital in Segbwema, Kailahun District. These two hospitals were very prominent in terms of quality health service delivery prior to the civil conflict. But because of financial problems, they were no longer effective in terms of health service delivery. The Government therefore found it expedient to step in to ensure that people in those areas once again start benefiting from the hospital in terms of quality health service delivery.
Furthermore, the ultra-modern health facility in Hangha on the outskirts of Kenema city will soon be commissioned by the Government to address key health issues in the Eastern Region.
Also in less than one year, a Bio-Safety and Disease Prevention Control laboratories have been established in the capital Freetown, followed by the signing of a memorandum between the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and friendly countries for the construction of a Cancer Diagnostic Center and a Tropical Disease Prevention Control and Research Center, whilst bidding and procurement process have been completed to secure 10 brand new dialysis machines to replace the worn-out ones at the Connaught Hospital.
Also worthy of noting are the National Ambulance Service and the National Medical Supply Agency that have been established to enhance quality service delivery. Under lifesaving initiative, the Ministry has resolved to secure sea ambulance service in riverine communities in Bonthe, Kambia and other difficult terrains.
The Directorate of Environmental Health in collaboration with development partners have also concluded the review of the Public Health Ordinance of 1960. The outcome of this review is an effective framework for proper solid waste management. At Ministry level, incinerators would be constructed at the various health facilities to deposit health infectious wastes. This would be followed by the establishment of sanitary court to bring to book anyone who fails to maintain accepted hygiene standard.
Amidst all these developments, the Directorate of Non-Communicable Disease is also busy working on the formulation of the Mental Health and Tobacco Control Legislation in order to scale up mental health treatment and to minimize or eradicate tobacco-related diseases in the country, while the Community Health Service policy is also underway to legitimize the operations of Community Health Officers.
Under Prof Alpha Wurie’s political leadership, plans are finalized to incorporate traditional healers into the main stream through the setting up of a focal point desk in the Ministry so that their practices would be refined, modernized and monitored.
While the Minister of Health and Sanitation has done exemplarily well in bringing radical reforms to the country’s health sector in one year, reports are that the National Physiotherapy Unit in terms of health facilities as squatters have already encroached on the land at Murray Town in west of Freetown.