By: Mohamed Kabba
The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Sierra Leone has called on stakeholders, especially government officials and health personnel to pay more emphasis in posting health staff to remote rural areas because over 80% of the recorded maternal death in the country have taken place in the rural areas.
Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu said government needs to put more emphasis on rural health issues which is currently deprived of more qualified nurses and midwives to engender professional services. Dr. Alemu said the absence of rural health workers have in diverse ways helped in undermining the Free Health Care initiative in the country.
“The country in 2011 saw the graduation of 250 state registered nurses which was a good indicator but only 98 were noticed to be practicing in public sectors. The issue of retention if not urgently addressed (will see) all our qualified health officials going into the private sector leaving our rural communities empty,” he advised.
Training and certification of health practitioners is not the solution but sending them to remote and deprived places with facilities to keep them in their stations, he further emphasized.
The World Health Organisation country representative described the roles of midwives as very significant with high training and experience in child delivery, post natal care for women; have relative approach in health care skills among other qualities. He thanked government for decentralizing the school of midwives which according to him will help boost the health sector especially for rural and remote areas in the country.
The Director of Medical Research Center Abdul Karim Jalloh said the school of midwives will help in producing trained and qualified health staff that will be readily available to work in rural areas in ensuring goals 4 and 5 of the Millennium Development Goals are achieved.
Mr. Abdul Karim Jalloh said within three years they are aiming at closing the gap of midwives in the country by providing quality training for more nurses from all over the country. He expressed his concern over the non retention of medical staff within three months upon completion of their training.
Program manager Reproductive Health Dr. Sarian A. Kamara expressed their appreciation to government for initiating the free health care policy which according to her has helped reduce the challenges of health care in the country. Dr. Kamara said quality health care for new born and reproductive health care are among the areas being addressed by the free health care initiative.
“Government repositioning of family planning has also helped in reducing unwanted births” but said more needs to be done because most deaths which happen in rural areas are preventable.
“What we need now are committed staff to work in those areas so we are calling on government to motivate our nurses and midwives,” she appealed.
The Minister of Information and Communication Mr I.B. Kargbo in his keynote address said government upon advise from health professionals was more than willing to introduce the Free Health Care aimed at reducing the growing alarming rates of maternal and infant mortality.
Mr. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said capacity has been one of the serious challenges to health care, but hoped that with the introduction and establishment of a school of midwives, those challenges will be addressed noting that, “we don’t expect excellent services from our midwives and nurses but we are committed and endeavor to put some of these structures in place,” he confessed.
Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said, “Retention of professionals has been a major challenge in the country “but we will continue to assure our citizens of putting those lost structures in place. We are also calling on all health staff to put on their utmost performance in rebranding the face of the health situation in the country,” he promised.
The Information Minister informed the School of Midwives in Makeni of providing electricity, water and internet connectivity before the year ends. He said ICT is a very important and integral part in developing the education sector especially in researching for new discoveries and techniques.