Doctors on strike

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Gambia Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) yesterday at 2 p.m. announced they have begun their sit-down strike as a result of what they called, “the lack of leadership demonstrated by the minister of Health.”

A “confidential” memo circulated to members of the association said in their meeting with representatives of all health facilities and hospitals, they have “unanimously agreed” that the on-call duty teams scheduled for Thursday 2 p.m. (at the start of the strike) to continue their duties until 8 a.m. Friday.

“We shall maintain the same on-call duty schedule for Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” the memo stated.

It also asks all doctors that are not on-call, to report to their respective health facilities on Friday morning. During these times, the out-patient departments and emergency wards would not be attended by the doctors, the memo said.

In a newspaper story published on February 28, the Health minister was quoted at a press conference as saying; “these young doctors will just go and practice pharmaceuticals and some of them will open pharmacies with the resources that we have.”

In a statement lamenting alleged corruption within the health sector on the side-lines of the conference and scientific meeting of West African College of Surgeons, Minister Saffie Lowe-Ceesay was quoted as saying unless corruption is wiped out of the country, the health system would not realise its objectives.

“When we talk about corruption in the health system, we all know how it is,” Minister Lowe-Ceesay, who was one-time permanent secretary at the same ministry, said.

The minister’s statement was met with resentment in some quarters of the medical community. The Gambia Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) on Tuesday demanded apologies from the Health Minister lest they go on sit down strike in protest at her statement.

Furthermore, the association called for a retraction of her statement, and her resignation within 48 hours. Failure to comply with these, they said will resort to a sit-down strike.

Meanwhile, the Information Minister Demba A. Jawo, told journalists on Wednesday that Health Minister Lowe-Ceesay had clarified that the statement attributed to her were not accurate.

Government’s spokesperson said the Health minister confirmed saying at the press conference of West African College of Surgeons that her ministry is facing a pilfering of medical items that include drugs.

To this end, the Health minister said it is her responsibility to seek measures to address the access system so that such medical items do not find their way to private pharmacies and other private health facilities.

“The health minister has, however, expressed understanding of the quick reaction of the medical professionals and would like to reiterate that she never attributed the pilfering to the medical doctors,” Information minister told the press.

“As association whose purpose is health advocacy, we wish to express our disappointment in and lack of leadership demonstrated by the Health minister,” doctor’s association said.

Their statement seems to look at other issues besting the health sector, and to register their concern over “the lack of responsible leadership, vision, and institutional inertia demonstrated by the Ministry of Health.”

Author: Sanna Camara & Alieu Ceesay
Source: Picture: GARD President Ebrima Bah