“My name is Umu Fofanah, my daughter’s name is Ejatu Saccoh and I gave birth to her on Friday, March 25 2011. I was asked to pay for scanning since the doctor said he was not satisfied with the position of my child during pregnancy.
But when I went for scanning, I was asked to pay thirty-five thousand Leones; not only me but about ten of us who were present at Cottage hospital.
My colleagues paid theirs but I had no money to pay so I was sent home”.
Umu Fofanah said that she returned home; being ignorant as to whether she is required to pay for ultrasound or not.
She said that since there was no money on her at that material time to pay as requested, she went to a close neighbour who is the wife of Brima Sheriff, Amnesty International’s Country Director; of cause not with the slightest intention of complaining about the money she had been asked to pay, but to ask for assistance in the sum of thirty thousand Leones to pay the charge that was levied on her.
Umu further said that in the evening of the same day when Mr. Sheriff came from work, his wife told him about what had transpired at the hospital.
She said Mr. Sheriff became interested in her case and ordered that the two of them should go to the hospital the following day, ideally to determine whether indeed Umu was asked to pay for ultrasound.
At the hospital, Mr. Sheriff pretended as if he was the husband of Umu and both of them went to the ultrasound unit.
She said that the nurse (s) in the presence of Brima, requested for the said amount for ultrasound, saying that Brima became a bit furious at that point, and emphatically asked the nurses “are pregnant women required to pay for ultrasound?”
“YES” the nurses retorted. But she said that when Brima told them who he was, they realized they had been actually caught doing disservice to beneficiaries of the Free Health Care, services that are supposed to be free.
In contact with Brima Sheriff to confirm the truth of Umu’s testimony, he said “people are still paying for drugs and a lot of services that are supposed to be free. There are lots of isolated cases, mostly outside Freetown in which people are being asked to pay for free health care”.
In the case of Umu Fofanah, I followed her to the hospital myself and that was exactly what she encountered. But my intervention frustrated the chances of them collecting money from her for treatment”
Brima also said that “women often come too late for treatment and there is no one to care for them. There is the absence of professional medical practitioners at the times these critical patients go to the hospitals.
“All of these borders on monitoring and accountability and it appear as if the ministry is not taking it seriously. Government needs lots of energy to be able to tackle problems that are around FHC”
He also said that everyone knew that the FHC was going to be a very big challenge, but added that no sufficient measures were put in place to surmount those challenges that were envisioned.
Moreover, he said, government was very ill-prepared ahead of the initiative, as there was massive lack of public education, resources and infrastructure were not adequately in place, and there are still less than 100 doctors for a population of over five million people in the country.
He said that “the FHC was politicized. Politicians started using it as a campaign tool, claiming to be “only” government that could put such an initiative in place, etc.”
At a roundtable contact with Dr. Mahmoud Idriss Kamara and other Nurses and Doctors in the Children’s Ward at Ola During Hospital, he said that he is not aware, within the confines of his own precinct, of any patient being asked to pay for service (s) due for Free Health Care.
He said despite the fact that the initiative has a lot of goodies attached to it, yet there are few challenges they are experiencing, among them are shortage of water, few oxygen concentrators, an incredible increase in the number of patients amidst insufficient accommodation and limited number of health workers. To be continued next publication
By Poindexter Sama