It is along these lines that the Minister said he was specifically instructed by His Excellency the President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma to prioritize medical education, particularly at the specialist level as soon as he assumed office to again begin to build up the critical mass of medical specialists that is fast fading away in the country.
Members of the public would recall that, the House of Parliament early this year passed two Bills into Acts. These are the Teaching Hospitals Act (2016) and the Council for the Postgraduate Colleges of Health Specialties Act (2016). These developments are a direct response to His Excellency’s directives. Said the Minister.
The object of the first Act is to establish a formal nexus between the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) and by extension the University of Sierra Leone (USL) and the Tertiary Hospitals (Connaught, Ola During, Jui, Kissy Psychiatric, Lakka, and the Princess Christian Maternity Hospitals). This nexus the Minister said is crucial because it opens the way for the transformation of these hospitals from service hospitals to teaching hospitals. Teaching hospitals the Minister said differs from ‘normal’ service hospitals in that teaching hospitals have a greater commitment to teaching and learning, student discipline is more rigorously enforced, the range of clinical services offered in the teaching hospital are wider and the quality is better. The administrative set up of the teaching hospital is also different from that of a service hospital which is what Connaught has been. The object of the latter Act is to establish a local specialist medical training institution to address in a sustainable the issue of the paucity of specialist medical doctors in the country which the minister says has reached epidemic crisis.
After several months of hard work which involves working with donors to source funds, infrastructure upgrading, procurement of equipment and addressing staffing issues, a team of specialists in postgraduate medical education from the relevant colleges of the West African Postgraduate Medical College, (WAPGMC), the West African College of Physicians 9WACP) and the West African College of Surgeone (WACS) respectively have visited and assed two of the countries hospitals, the Connaught University Teaching Hospital and the Ola During University Teaching Hospital viz-a-viz their state of readiness to commence specialist training in surgery and paediatrics respectively
Due to the tremendous amount of efforts that have been put by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in the areas of infrastructure, equipment and human resources to lift the profile of these hospitals to befit their status as Teaching Hospitals, the accreditation team has given them the all clear to commence specialist training. The elated Health and Sanitation Minister said this is what the President’s Agenda for Prosperity is all about. It is about creating the ideal atmosphere for Sierra Leoneans to achieve their full potentials even in country. This is a historic landmark in medical education in the country. We shall never walk backwards from this point. We can only get better and better. He therefore urged all and sundry particularly the young doctors to grab this opportunity with both hands. Let us have faith in what is ours and support it to become better and better. He warned that apprehension, doubt, and hesitation can only perpetuate the vicious cycle of retrogression and underdevelopment. He said who had thought 26 years ago that our medical school would stand the test of time? Today it has become our saving grace in terms of providing this nation with the much needed human resources for health. In the same vein this two initiatives holds the future of the health care system in this country.
The Minister of Health and Sanitation catalogued the major disadvantages of having to rely on the good will of foreign countries to build our medical workforce and predicted a pending atmosphere of doom for our health system if the efforts of His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma in building a strong and resilient health system are not complemented. He congratulated the four would residents doctors on their success in their primary examinations of the West African College of Surgeons and entry into the program. He referred to them as the pioneers of postgraduate medical education. He urged them to be focused and don’t get distracted.