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In a bid to promote an effective implementation of the free healthcare scheme in Matru Jong community and its environs, the Southern regional office of the Anti-Corruption Commission on Wednesday, 10th October, 2012, engaged health workers, beneficiaries of the free healthcare initiative including pregnant women and lactating mothers, youths and civil society at the Matru-Jong community Centre to discuss the successes and challenges in the implementation of the scheme.
Welcoming the participants, the District Coordinator for Bonthe, Mr Joseph Hazely, lauded the efforts of all and sundry for braving the rugged terrain to attend the workshop. He said as a staff of the ACC, he has made tremendous strides to raise public awareness in the district about the evils of corruption and how it will impact negatively on the free healthcare if people do not shy away from it. Mr Hazely noted the huge investment in the free healthcare and the pivotal role ACC has been playing to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the implementation of the scheme. He encouraged participants to be very open and ready to highlight burning issues pertaining implementation of the scheme and should proffer the way forward that will help facilitate a successful accomplishment of results in the policy initiative.
Delivering a statement at the well attended workshop, the district medical officer (DMO) of Bonthe district, Dr Francis Smart expressed thanks and appreciation to ACC for organizing a workshop like this in his district. Smart first lauded the efforts of all stakeholders involved in the free healthcare including government and local development partners like UNICEF. He premised his statement with the notion that Bonthe is a unique community as it is divided into mainland and the island in which the government hospital is situated on the island, which he said was for colonial reasons. According to Dr Smart, most of the facilities for the free healthcare scheme are catered for in the hospital that is on the island with a sizable population as opposed to almost 85% of the population on the mainland. The main hospital on the mainland is a faith based hospital owned by the UBC Mission which has minimum service for free healthcare policy implementation. He however appreciated the work of health workers in the district who despite the enormous occupational hazards including poor road network and inadequacy of fuel for electricity, they have stood to the test of time to make free healthcare a success in the district. He made mention of the shortage of health personnel in the district and frowned at nurses who abandon their postings or sometimes deliberately refused to go to work in the district when they are transferred from Freetown or some other cities in the country.
Responding to his statement, the Regional Manager South of the ACC, Mr Mohamed Dumbuya, thanked Dr Smart for holding the fort in the district and encouraged him to continue the good job. Mr Dumbuya informed participants that they must strive to make the free healthcare initiative an enduring legacy in Bonthe as it will be good for all of them and even children yet unborn. He cautioned health workers to be watchful of their actions as it relates to transparency and accountability in the implementation of the free healthcare. He said, the ACC has been reasonably satisfied with the conduct of most stakeholders involved in the process but will however not rest on its oars until it ensures that the scheme becomes a living legacy of all Sierra Leoneans for generations yet unborn. Manager Dumbuya encouraged participants to highlight the successes and challenges that the scheme has brought to bear in the Bonthe district as a whole.
In making his brief statement, the Public Education Officer South of the ACC, Mr Wilfred Bangura, informed participants that the free healthcare should be the sing song of every patriotic Sierra Leonean particularly our womenfolk who have been dying in childbirth and losing their young babies before they reach the age of five. He said the workshop should stimulate live discussion on the successes and challenges and they (participants) should have the capacity to proffer the way forward for successful implementation of the scheme.
Other speakers including representative of civil society Reverend Gbanda and representative of the Bonthe district Council, Francis Teffa both lauded the efforts of all stakeholders in the implementation of the free healthcare scheme in Bonthe. They however stated that the scheme has some impediments in the district including poor road network, low wages of some health workers and disproportionate allocation of resources due to the natural existing division between mainland and the Island.
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