Addressing guests during the Inauguration of the Board of the University Teaching Hospitals Complex Board on Wednesday February 8, 2017 at the Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown, Dr. Fofanah said the world over teaching hospitals provides the best standard of patient care, seconded to only by Military hospitals.
He reiterated that countries with Teaching Hospitals often attract patients from far and wide because of the high standards of care they provide. Countries he said that have established Teaching Hospitals often act as hubs attracting doctors from other neighbouring countries seeking further medical knowledge.
Dr. Fofanah stated that since the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) was established in 1988 to train medical doctors at the undergraduate level, nothing else has happened in the sphere of medical education to address the critical issues of medical training at the next level.
He said according to the WHO benchmarks, Sierra Leone at an estimated population of about six million required a minimum of 1,200 medical doctors, adding that with less than 350 Sierra Leonean doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Sierra Leone and the population now estimated at seven million, the shortage of doctors has reached critical proportions making the realization of both the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals predictably unattainable. He said the two intertwined interventions by the government of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the designation of specific hospitals by statute as Teaching Hospitals and the establishment of a Council to oversee specialist medical training in-country are designed to close the generational gap in the country’s development history.
The Minister reiterated that the vast majority of young medical doctors that the country loose to other countries are not necessarily migrating to seek greener pastures, but to look for opportunities to advance their academic pursuits. He said at present Sierra Leone is losing a minimum of 120 person-years of service to Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa, adding that the country spends millions of tax payer’s money to send citizens out of the country for tertiary medical care for which the country has no expertise nor resources to manage.
The Health Minister noted that Teaching Hospitals offer and encourage the practice of evidence based medicine, specialized surgeries, modern drugs, and other intensive treatments that general and regional hospital cannot provide.
He said although Connaught, Princess Christian, Ola During, Lakka, and Kissy Psychiatric hospitals have all been used over the years as Teaching Hospitals, they are not in practical terms Teaching Hospitals as there is no statutory instrument that establishes them.
Dr. Fofanah informed his audience that the Teaching Hospitals Act of 2016 established the six Tertiary hospitals in Freetown: Connaught, Princess Christian, Ola During, Lakka, Jui, and Kissy Mental as full teaching hospitals and the three regional hospitals of Bo, Makeni and Kenema as affiliate Teaching Hospitals, adding that henceforth these hospitals can now use the “Teaching” after them.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. BrimaKargbo opined that the current Minister in his wisdom when appointed initiated a flagship project that gave birth for the establishment of a postgraduate training in the country.
He described the transformation made in the Ministry by the Minister in two years time as unique, adding that the initiative and the current development is a journey with hopes for a better future.
Dilating on the brain drain in the medical profession, Dr. Kargbo commended the Minister and the government for providing tuition fees for our local young doctors to train abroad as specialist in various fields including Psychiatry.
He noted that for decades Sierra Leone could only boast of one Psychiatrist in the person of Dr. Edward Nahim but that with the presence of a visionary dynamic administration the country can now boast of two recently trained Psychiatrist to fill the long decades gap at the Sierra Leone Psychiatry hospital.
Dr. Kargbo also catalogued the new development in the Ministry alongside the Teaching Hospitals and Postgraduate training, citing the National Ambulance Service and other key developments within the health system strengthening.
He looks forward to a fruitful cooperation from the Board, and advocated for a renewed culture in making the Health Ministry a more viable institution.
Addressing his audience about the University Teaching Hospital, the newly appointed Chief Medical Director of the Teaching Hospitals Complex Administration, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo said the conduct and mandate of the institution covers training, research and clinical services.
He solicited support from members of staff on the training of specialists for health care and health care management and disclosed plans to provide a strategic plan for the next five years.
The newly appointed Board Chairman, Dr. Mrs. NemataMajeks-Walker underscored the importance of women in the delivery of health care and reiterated her commitment to work hard in the discharge of her duties.
She said the confidence reposed in her as health care-givers will be demonstrated to strengthen the country’s health care system and assured the government and Ministry’s officials of her commitment and dedication to service.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mr. David Banyadescribed the establishment of the Teaching hospitals as pivotal in the Government’s development calendar, and first in the history of Sierra Leone.
He noted that the structures for the new development was created by the Minister Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, pointing out that the challenge is now left with the functionaries to pursue what he referred to as a journey that requires the support of all for the benefit of the nation.