Despite the fact that finance has cordoned the less-privileged in accessing health facilities, hope is not lost as the Sierra Leone Rotary in collaboration with the Indo-Nepalese Rotary has provided free medical services for the needy at the Choithrams Hospital, Hill Station in Freetown.
Giving a brief background to the Indo-Nepalese Rotary medical mission to Sierra Leone, Choithrams’ medical director, Dr Len Gordon-Harris explained that, “the programme started about three years ago when we try to put some money together i.e. the Rotary club of Freetown and its other clubs in India and Nepal, so that we can go to Rotary International which is our parent body for them to match the amount which we have gathered to help Sierra Leoneans.”
This undertaken, he added, “…has now come to fruition and we have been able to bring out 11 medical personnel from India and Nepal.”
He noted that the free medical service project by the rotary club was not their first undertaking. “We’ve done it before. The last two we did were only for eyes that were in Bo and Freetown,” he stated.
He explained that the project, which was done periodically, had also carried out free plastic surgeries in Sierra Leone with a German medical team.
Cataloguing the Indo-Nepalese medical team, Dr Gordon-Harris heightened that “there is one gynaecologist; three eye specialists; two general surgeons; two orthopedic surgeons; one dentist and one theatre technician,” noting that added to the lot was an anesthesia who put patient to sleep during surgical operation.
The Choithrams’ medical director revealed that, “I asked Choithrams to help us out because Connaught Hospital alone could not be able to foot this amount of staff.”
To date, he added, “We have screened about 700 people. It is impossible to operate all of them [because] some do not need operation anyway.”
He went on, “so we have to divide them into groups. Those that come for dental problem go to the dentist, patients with eye problems see the eye specialist and so on.”
Dr Gordon-Harris stated that, “you see Choithrams has been very helpful they have given us part of their facilities to use free of charge.”
This, he added, included “the operation theatre, power supply, water, bed, everything we are using in the hospital, for free”.
Dr Gordon-Harris averred that, “we have a similar set up at the Connaught Hospital, but we have to buy fuel for the generator etc.”
He explained that a hospital at Brookfields in Freetown was being used as accommodating base where patients were gathered to rest for a night before sending them to the different centres of operation.
“Points of operation for now are Connaught and Choithrams hospitals,” Dr Gordon-Harris maintained.
The radiologist heightened that to date over 40 dental, 50 eyes and five major gynaecological, 20 hernias and some minor orthopaedic surgeries had been done.
He disclosed that the medical service to the needy was going to continue till next Friday, “that is when we’ll do the last sets of operations because the team would be leaving on Sunday”.
Explaining when the team started its operations in Freetown, he stated that “they came on Monday, checkups started on Tuesday and surgical operations on Wednesday.”
The Choithrams’ medical director accentuated that the programme was well advertised in the media, noting that this could be assessed by the “over whelming turnout.”
Unfortunately Dr Gordon-Harris regretted, “we have to stop screening at 700, we have to [scrutinized] and see those that really needed operation that is important.”
Asked about how the needy were identified, he explained that the needy were those who were in need of the services and could not afford it, adding that, “We mean those who are sitting in their villages and cannot afford the fees for urgently needed surgical operations.”
Dr Gordon-Harris disclosed that the service was for Sierra Leoneans nationwide, but because of proximity “we have more patients coming from the Western Area and the Northern Province than you get from elsewhere.”
The Choithrams medical director highlighted a case in which two patients’ hernias were already strangulated, noting that, “they would have died but both of them are now healed.”
He maintained that, “We are actually looking at financial barriers for those who can not afford to pay for surgical operations…these are given the opportunity.”
Speaking about post-surgical operational medication, Dr Gordon-Harris stated that the project had been providing drugs for patients, noting that at the same time local doctors were being trained.
“They would be looking after the patients when the team would have gone,” he said.
He also pointed out that the reason why surgical operations would stop on Sunday was to ensure that those operated on were observed on that day when the team would be leaving.
Speaking on behalf of T Choithrams and Sons, Mr Agnani Harish professed that “the reason why we gave our facilities free of charge to [the] Rotary club, is because it is in line with the spirit of the founder of Choithrams who believed in helping humanity especially the needy.”
He noted that apart from offering their facilities free of cost, Choithrams had also provided scholarship and free breasts inspection every week for the disadvantaged.