By Alagie Manneh
Doctors in public hospitals have said they are continuing with their strike action despite an apology issued by the health minister on Tuesday.
Mercury rose after Minister Saffie Lowe stated in a press conference that corruption perpetrated by young doctors was blighting the public health sector.
The comments angered doctors, who called for her to apologise, retract her comments and resign. The doctors claimed the ministry is rudderless and suggested Mrs Lowe be replaced with someone more grounded in health.
At a press conference yesterday at the School of Medicine and Allied Sciences in Banjul, the doctors described the minister’s apology as “insipid and half-hearted”.
“This apology contains no retractions and it isn’t specific to the party affected,” Dr Ebrima Bah, the president of Resident Doctors Association (GARD) read from a statement.
“This apology has fallen short of the measure expected of a serving public official,” he stated.
He said despite meetings with various stakeholders including the Office of the President, medical advisory group of the Ministry of Health and others, their demands remain to be met.
“Therefore, we shall be proceeding to phase two but meanwhile we will be exhausting all options in the interim. We do this with utmost sadness, for our patients are dear to us, and they deserve better. They deserve the health care that people in other countries are enjoying, for it is their basic right.”
GARD member Pa Amadou Sohna who chaired the conference, insisted that the doctors’ demands are reasonable.
“We want the government to reassure its populace that these people [doctors] are trustworthy and toiling all their energy and are not thieves,” he said.
Another doctor commented that the country’s health system “hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, we can confidently say that things have gotten worse overtime. So, to say that when we sit down, death tolls will increase, yes it will but the truth of the matter is people have been dying and they will continue to die as long as our health system remains in this very deplorable state.”
The doctors said conditions remain so bad that they themselves go the extra mile to buy drugs and other consumables for their patients.
“So many of us go out to buy simple papers to write on for our patients. There are doctors who give their own blood to save the lives of their patients because we don’t even have a proper blood bank. We have no place to keep blood for our poor mothers and sisters who come here to deliver.”
Contacted last evening to comment on this development, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr Cherno Barry said: “We were not invited to the conference. We are going to contact them and until the dialogue is finished, it is probably immature now to give any comment on this issue.”