As the country continues to grapple with the deadly Ebola disease, the main referral hospital on Bonthe Sherbro Island remains in bad shape, causing Mayor Layemi Joe Sandi to complain to the Minister of Health and Sanitation.
In an interview with the Awoko newspaper, the Mayor called the situation “appalling,” and echoed the President’s admonition that in dealing with the Ebola outbreak, “extra-ordinary challenges require extra-ordinary measures.” He said that the Bonthe Municipal Hospital is in such a poor state that, in the event of an Ebola outbreak, it would be unable to respond to the medical challenges.
Mayor Sandi said that, following the President’s call to fight against the Ebola scourge, the Bonthe Municipal Council and local officials had put strong measures in place in a bid to ensure that the disease did not penetrate the river-bound community. By so doing, he noted, the Local Council had contributed in raising awareness about the disease. It had provided funds for the training of health workers, he said, and had instituted regulations in line with those prescribed by the Health Ministry including the provision of materials needed in the Ebola fight.
The Mayor, however, expressed concern about the effective operation of the referral hospital. He alleged that the hospital was grossly under-staffed in terms of trained and qualified health professionals. For example, he said, the assigned Medical Superintendent to the hospital, as a result of his engagement and inadequate budgetary allocation to the Council to run the hospital, had told the Mayor and the area’s Member of Parliament that he could not give his best to the municipality as professionally required, and had requested that they look for an alternative.
He said he had been informed by the Chief Nursing Officer that the Matron of the hospital had left for China and up to this time, he said, she has not been replaced. He also noted that the number of trained and qualified nurses providing services at the hospital was a grave concern. He said the entire hospital was being managed by just seven SECHN nurses, three of whom are on leave. This, he went on, meant that there are only four active nurses to staff all the wards at the referral hospital, including the maternity ward and the operating theatre.
The hospital also lacks a Nurse Anaesthetist to monitor patients, he said, adding that the lack of a trained and qualified Nurse Anaesthetist means greater risk for patients, especially as general/spinal anaesthetic must be administered by a specialist. He said the contract for the only Nigerian Nurse Anaesthetist who worked in the hospital had expired.
The hospital also lacks a Scrub Nurse, Pharmacy Technicians, a Surgical Assistant, and a Midwife, he said.
Due to the outbreak of the Ebola disease, the Mayor noted that there was an urgent need for the construction of an isolation unit/holding centre for people who exhibited symptoms of Ebola, even though there is yet no recorded case of Ebola on the island. Two small rooms had been identified in the hospital close to the female ward, but he said health workers had advised that this area was not suitable given the nature of the disease.
Mayor Sandi stressed that the referral hospital was in desperate need of both sea and land ambulance services. He said the municipality faces a huge challenge in transporting critically ill patients from the hospital on Bonthe Island to other referral hospitals in the country. Should there be any outbreak of the Ebola disease on the island, he said, it would be a great challenge to transport them from the island using passenger boats.
He said that when there were emergency obstetric cases, patients were often left to suffer in pain and sometimes died in the process of transferring them from the island to other referral hospitals. He said that the only land ambulance service available in the district was based in Mattru Jong, 28 miles away from Yagoi.
Despite the introduction of the free healthcare programme, the Mayor said that essential drugs were not available. He said certain essential drugs such as Amoxicillin, Flagyl, Brufen and Chloramphenicol were not available in the Free Health Care Kit. He added that patients eligible for free healthcare category had to buy them from the Cost Recovery Unit of the hospital, but that extremely poor patients could not afford to do so.
More worrisome, he said, was the lack or shortage of essential healthcare machines. He said that the entire hospital had only two blood pressure machines, and that there was neither an ultra-scanning machine nor a glucometer.
He said pointed out that more than ten thousand people on the island were dependent on the hospital, and he called for urgent action by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to correct conditions which, he said, could lead to an undesirable situation.
By Poindexter Sama
Wednesday October 01, 2014