Monday, July 09, 2007

The Health Sector is Collapsing

During colonial era, health in Sierra Leone was considered better contrary to the present status of the country. But despite this reality, the country still faces health hazards like the scourge of Malaria, hence Sierra Leone was being referred to as the ‘white man’s grave’ resulting to the expulsion of many missionaries out of the country.
Today this perception still exists that the country is still poor in health facility. Some of the medical expatriates who often visit the country have got their own share of experience about the country’s health status and are convincing others to come to Sierra Leone to help. But despite the local and international appeal, some investors are still reluctant to come to invest in Sierra Leone. This is one of President Kabbah’s most difficult task to achieve as his global appeals to scale up the country’s health problems failed to woo international medical investors.
The fact remains that while the country still battles with its health problems, some members of the society working on health sector are still affecting the situation, causing more problems. Sierra Leone is still ranked very low in terms of maternal and child maternity rates.  Since the outbreak of most of these health problems such as Measles, Malaria, STIs, STDs, HIV/AIDS etc, little success has been achieved so far to improve the health sector despite the UN, World Bank, WHO etc are helping us to combat or reduce these diseases.
Doctors and other medical staff also exploit health in the country to the detriment of the poor as poor stories of pregnant women dying of child birth due to lack of money to pay for exorbitant medical expenses unprofessional services and shortage of drugs.
Unlike these unscrupulous medical staff, others working hard to save lives and don’t focus their work on money are worth commendable.  There is no point castigating medical professionals or discouraging them in the discharge of their functions, but their responsibilities in the management of our health status needs review of the status quo.
The recent ugly and unfortunate incident that occurred with a pregnant woman who died at the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital at Fourah Bay Road in Freetown for unavailability of Four Hundred Thousand Leones to get her delivered, reminded us about the lagging problems of health in the country and the need to address them. The development clearly manifested that only the ‘well to do’ can afford a proper maternity service unlike the don’ts. Besides this one, there are other cases of corruption in the medical service adding cancer to the country’s health problems.
Admitting patients in hospitals today is costly as you will have to pay may different fees such as registration, doctor’s consultation, testing, medical fees for treatment and charges for drugs. These are not reflected on the service provided. Through these, many doctors and nurses have corruptively opened private clinics which have stolen most of the good drugs in the hospitals to their private drug stores.
Also the lack of drugs in major government hospitals like the PCMA and Connaught which have been repaired amidst high government and donor support, are still under-serviced as they lack basic amenities such as water and power supply. In Kenema, a ward which was rehabilitation by UNICEF, has now deteriorated again to its usual condition due to lack of maintenance. Today the health sector has totally failed to protect pregnant women to have safe delivery, instead has created a deadly situation that has put the country at zero level in child and maternal mortality rates. The WHO, UNICEF and other stakeholders are working hard to scale up the country’s health by minimizing the spread of these deadly diseases.
If we want to improve the health sector of the country, we must prepare to ignore attempts of those corrupting the health sector and join forces to protect women and children. That is why the government has been called upon to put reform mechanisms that would properly monitor those dealing with health and further educating the people about health hazards.

African Path