Public Relations Unit, Ministry of Health: Siera Leone Telegraph: 04 November 2021:
Fueled by the undaunted spirit to inject a more contemporary and innovative approach into the system of the health ministry, an agency that is fit for purpose, which caters for transparency, fairness and most importantly competency, has led the Minister of Health & Sanitation, Dr. Austin Demby to become, in recent weeks, a subject of misguided and malicious headlines across social and print media.
On 11th September, the minister had to honor an invitation to the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program in the United States. Prior to his departure, he met with his two deputies, the Permanent Secretary (PS), and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
At that meeting, Minister Demby (Photo) proposed that they collate the names and the CVs/Resumes of the prospective candidates so that upon his return there will be an open, fair, competitive, and unbiased recruitment process based on merit, allowing the most competent candidates with the requisite matching skills to serve. This was agreed upon by the team.
Prior to his departure, the Minister, in his handing over note to the deputy minister 1, noted the proposal tabled at that meeting by clarifying the consensus. Couple of days after his departure, the postings were released by the CMO, ignoring the proposition and agreement from that meeting to put these postings on hold.
Through verbal and written communications, several opportunities were given to the CMO to rescind the postings to which he did not adhere. With two weeks left to his retirement, the Human Resources Management Office, through consultations with senior civil servants, sent the CMO on leave to retirement.
Two types of postings
Horizontal: involves doctors to be routinely moved around. However, for these postings to take place, the Postings Committee meets, with the CMO as the Chair. Once the postings have been confirmed, the list is sent to the Minister for his concurrence.
Vertical Postings: National Managing: involves people managing national programmes. The Doctors want to protect this role for ‘just the doctors’ and no other professional within the health service.
Labelling the Minister a tyrant for wanting to give capable and innovative people the opportunity to contribute to health care delivery in the country is as tragic as it is laughable.
It is altogether mischievous to sight him also as an example of “abuse of office” because he seeks to provide ADDITIONAL technical support to the ministry with the singular motive of spiraling tangible accomplishments in the health sector by bringing on board team of experts (local & international), including development partners with relevant subject matter knowledge.
For the benefit of the public, and in particular the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA), the roles of the Minister, the PS, and CMO are clearly defined in the Civil Service Code, Regulations and Rules, (pp 5 – 6) as:
The Minister is the head of the Ministry who shall exercise general direction and control over the ministry.
The Permanent Secretary is the administrative head of the ministry and provides administrative advice to the Minister and the Ministry.
The Chief Medical Officer is the technical head of the ministry that provides technical and professional advice to the Permanent Secretary and the Minister.
In a letter from the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) to the Minister of Health, dated 25th October 2021, it was disappointing to note therefrom that either SLMDA or the signatories to that letter, have not read the Civil Service Code. They do not understand the difference between the roles of the Minister and the CMO. As an organization, the SLMDA should be looking out for younger doctors, professionalism, professional development, growth, competence, capacity building, which are what the Minister stands for. Instead in their letter, they opted to give power and authority to the CMO which the CMO does not have. What a shaking my head moment!
Acknowledging the top cadre of the Ministry, the Minister, in all his engagements, has made it abundantly clear that his administration will work assiduously with all the directorates to transform the health sector for the long-term benefit of the nation and the people of Sierra Leone.
The focus is to build a resilient and responsive health systems, to provide and regulate comprehensive health care services in an equitable manner through innovative and appropriate technology, while guaranteeing social and financial protections for the people. It is also his vision to align this with the medium-term national development plan with the strategic objectives of ensuring that all Sierra Leoneans have access to affordable quality health care services and health security.
On several platforms, we have heard President Bio appeal to and urge Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to come home and join hands in nation-building. We should all therefore work as partners to deliver President Bio’s vision of a better health infrastructure in Sierra Leone by utilizing a knowledgeable and competent workforce in achieving our strategic development goals.
Sierra Leone belongs to all of us! We all have personal responsibilities and shared ones to our country. Our health sector and healthcare delivery will thrive when we manage to respect each other and work together.
Author: Public Relations Unit, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation.