By Tabora Bojang
Dr Anna Jammeh, a senior medical officer and incident manager at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Unit, has told the National Assembly health committee probing the deaths of over 70 due to Acute Kidney Injury, that the refusal of many families to cooperate with investigations has posed a major concern to their ongoing investigations.
“The refusal of families to respond to interviews [by health investigators] is a major concern for us. The information they are giving us is incomplete and we want more information. Yes, we understand that they are still mourning and grieving but it is difficult. If you call them to ask for their addresses in order to visit them, the response is not nice. Sometimes they don’t want to see you and they will blame you for not helping or that you have done something,” Dr Jammeh told the committee.
She said these uncooperative acts posed difficulties to health care givers to proceed and make analysis on the samples being investigated.
According to her, some of the parents could not recall the quantity of doses given to their children, where they purchased medicines, or sometimes fake the duration of the sickness of children when interrogated by the investigators.
Lack of labs
According to the senior medical officer, the unavailability of testing labs in the country had delayed their response in finding answers to the mystery.
“Inasmuch as we have the skills, the capacity is not there. We don’t have labs in the country to conduct toxicology tests and other tests. This delayed our response and investigations because the first samples sent to Senegal for toxicology took over one month before we got the results back. They had to identify another lab in Ghana and Switzerland to do the tests but if we had a lab in the Gambia, it would not take that long. Apart from the unavailability of labs for testing drugs even our normal labs lack other things which are affecting our work. If this equipment were available, it would not have delayed our response in finding answers to what we were actually dealing with,” Dr Jammeh stated.
Lack of psychosocial support for doctors, families
Dr Anna also lamented before deputies that health care givers themselves lack psychosocial support in coming to terms with the tragic deaths. She said the same applies to the families of the victims.
“Managing these cases was difficult. I used to work in a clinic. I know what it is like to record deaths every day. It is a difficult situation. Managing a patient you know may die tomorrow is a difficult situation for the clinicians. Yes, death is normal in a hospital but not in this kind of situation.”