Sierra Leone Telegraph: 03 July 2020:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio was in Bo, southern Sierra Leone yesterday, where he visited the newly refurbished Covid-19 care and treatment facilities, and distributed much needed equipment and uniforms to healthcare workers.
Praising the interventions of partner organisations, president Bio said: “Enhancing the capacity of healthcare personnel goes beyond simply recruiting and training nurses and other healthcare professionals. t is about making them more efficient in speedily and accurately diagnosing and treating disease conditions presented to them. We also believe that in the absence of accurate diagnosis, the health and possibly lives of patients are at grave risk”.
President Bio further noted that diagnostic testing is central to disease surveillance and could be the basis for reliable data on disease prevalence or disease burdens in specific geographical locations.
He said that the data could help government make evidence-based decisions on allocating resources, distributing medical supplies, training staff, locating healthcare infrastructure, providing health education, and making high-quality treatment available to citizens.
“I am therefore pleased to announce that my Government will be expanding access to diagnostic testing at all regional and district hospitals and eventually to all PHUs by providing laboratory equipment,” he said, adding that his government has also stressed the importance of professionalism in the healthcare sector.
“I come from a profession in which the wearing of uniforms fosters strong esprit de corps, pride and confidence in the profession, and confidence to live up to the highest standards and expectations. My Government believes that wearing uniforms in the healthcare professions will foster that professional identity and thus lead to greater pride in the profession and greater confidence in performing duties. The professional outlook of healthcare staff in identical uniforms will enhance the trust and confidence that patients and their family members have in the healthcare staff.
“My Government, therefore, believes that to promote professionalism, we should reintroduce and strengthen a uniform wearing policy for healthcare practitioners especially nurses. Under the resilient health systems strengthening and sustainability programme concluded by the Ministries of Finance and Health, my Government will henceforth provide two sets of cadre-specific uniforms for every nurse. I repeat, my Government will provide nurses (CHOs, CHAs, Midwives etc.) with two sets of uniforms free of charge. This will be sustained and replicated throughout the country,” he assured.
The President also acknowledged the work of World Vision International for their community-based primary health care interventions with a focus on maternal, new-born, and child health that have kept thousands of mothers and children alive.
He also recognised the contributions of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to the country’s health sector, adding that he is grateful and confident of an intensified cooperation and engagement on maintaining these diagnostic facilities, upgrading equipment, training staff, and supporting regulatory oversight.
“Let me, at this juncture, acknowledge the support of OSIWA that has fully funded the refurbishment and repurposing of The Bo Children’s Hospital, which I inspected earlier this morning, as a dedicated COVID-19 treatment facility. Some of the nurses will be re-trained accordingly and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation will support with essential equipment and other consumables.
“In order to treat healthcare workers who may succumb to COVID-19, OSIWA has also fully financed the repurposing of the Infectious Diseases Centre into a treatment centre for health workers. I must acknowledge that the container was first provided by the WHO.
“Let me, therefore, thank OSIWA again for its proactive and speedy support in rehabilitating both the Bo Children’s Hospital and the Infectious Disease Centre. They have considerably strengthened our capacity to respond to the ravaging menace of COVID-19. These facilities are concrete and enduring interventions that will outlive Corona and boost our healthcare infrastructure.
“As a Government and country, we deeply appreciate OSIWA’s work in promoting human rights; eradicating Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV); supporting community-based justice mechanisms implemented by the legal aid board and civil society partners; promoting accountability; and facilitating the active participation of citizens in governance processes. My Government looks forward to deepening its partnership with OSIWA as we strive to establish the Peace and National Cohesion Commission,” he said.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, spoke of the numerous reforms the New Direction government is undertaking to improve healthcare delivery, adding that they have made so many strides in building a reliable healthcare service in the country.
Country Officer for OSIWA, Joe Pemagbi, said that they thought of the idea of having a treatment center in Bo district because it was expensive to carry COVID-19 positive patients to other parts of the country for treatment. He also said that they have been helping government in several areas, especially in public health education.
Country Director for World Vision Sierra Leone, James Chifwelu Nkemba, said that the project is a manifestation of the good policy environment that has been created by the government, saying that they appreciate the openness of government and its continuous collaboration. He said that as part of their efforts in the fight against COVID-19, they have supported over 400 Peripheral Health Units with protective gears for healthcare workers.