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As a way of addressing corruption issues surrounding the Free Health Care (FHC) initiative, the Northern Regional Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has engaged health workers and other stakeholders in the health sector in Kambia. (Cross section of audience)
This was in the form of a sensitization meeting at the Kambia Government Hospital on Monday 6th August 2012. Representing the Paramount Chief, Pa Alhaji Alimamy Turay, in his welcome address appreciated the sensitization drive by the ACC which he noted will go a long way in enhancing effective health service delivery. He emphasised the importance of good health and thanked Government for the initiative. The Paramount Chief’s representative cautioned that if the FHC programme is not controlled and monitored, it will not benefit the people of Sierra Leone.
In his opening statement, chairman of the meeting, Mr. Nabieu Yayah Yillah said ACC was in Kambia to enlighten them on the implementation of the FHC programme and ensure that the right thing is done. He called on all stakeholders in the health sector to ensure the success of the FHC programme for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
Explaining the rationale for the meeting, ACC’s District Coordinator, Kambia District, Mr. Abdul Karim Bangura, said ACC was not in the district to investigate or arrest anybody but was on an educational and preventive drive aimed at addressing corruption issues in the FHC implementation, in a bid to ensure effective and transparent health service delivery. The District Coordinator told the health workers and stakeholders that the FHC programme will only succeed if all the parties involved are upright. Bangura emphasised that in order to achieve quality service delivery, they must be ready to join ACC in the fight.
The District Medical Officer (DMO) – Kambia, Dr. Tom Sesay gave an overview of the implementation of the FHC programme in the district. He highlighted the successes of the programme among which are increase in access to health facilities and drop in maternal death in the district.
He highlighted various challenges in the implementation of the FHC programme such as, frequent shortage of drugs in the health facilities, late distribution of the drugs, misuse of drugs by patients, shortage of professional staff, and stakeholder participation and commitment. The DMO lamented that the supply of drugs was through the push system as opposed to the pull system, noting that since utilization rate is not the same for all drugs, it most times lead to conflict and misunderstanding between health workers and beneficiaries. Dr. Sesay called for the recruitment of more medical staff and appealed to community stakeholders and beneficiaries to be patient with the health personnel. He assured that they are doing their best to meet the health needs of the public.
Head of Bamoi Luma PHU, Mr. Abdul Kanu in his statement expressed frustration over the proliferation of quack doctors which he said hinders the success of the FHC programme in the district. He made mention of delay in receiving their performance based funds and the unavailability of drugs for treatment of some common diseases in the district.
Representing the Health For All Coalition, Mohamed Jalloh said their role is to monitor everything that pertains to the health sector. He noted that the HFAC is not a witch hunt organisation but working towards ensuring the provision of effective health service delivery in Sierra Leone. Jalloh disclosed that they have monitors in all the 65 PHUs in Kambia District. He frowned at the rampant selling of drugs by nurses in the health facilities and called on the DMO to institute disciplinary measures.
Speaking on behalf of the Commission, ACC’s Northern Regional Manager, Mr. Patrick Sandi said one of the things that would forestall the success of the FHC is the continued presence of corruption, that is why there should be monitoring mechanisms in place. “The meeting is for us to see how best we can put our efforts together to enhance the success of the FHC programme.” He emphasized.
Manager Sandi told the gathering that ACC is not a threat to anybody or institution but trying to enhance transparency and accountability and also working in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone. He noted that the FHC programme still faced challenges in the area of transparency and accountability particularly with regards records keeping. Adding that breakdown of trust impacts negatively on the implementation of the programme. He reminded the health workers of their primary duty of saving lives and how corrupt practices can hinder improvement in the FHC programme and the health delivery system in the country.
The Regional Manager entreated all present to see the fight against corruption in the health sector as a collective responsibility, which requires partnership. He informed them that the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act covers everybody in Sierra Leone and therefore warned them to deliver service in conformity with the law.
Statements from one of the FHC beneficiaries Mariatu Kamara, Regional Coordinator Media Alliance Against Corruption (MAAC) Gibril Gotor, CHO Alhassan H. Koroma, questions, comments and concerns from the audience formed part of the meeting.
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