By Aji Fatou Faal
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has recently provided the national health policy, strategic plan and detailed report on the status of public health delivery system countrywide to the Select Committee on Health, Women, Children, Disaster, Refugees and Humanitarian Relief of the National Assembly.
The objective of the select committee tour is to get first-hand information on health facilities in the Gambia.
Delivering his report, Cherno Omar Barry revealed that the health ministry is responsible for healthcare delivery and provision of social welfare services in The Gambia, noting that the Gambia health sector has a three tier system: Primary (village health service and community clinics), Secondary (minor & major health centers) and Tertiary (general and specialized hospitals).
He said the health ministry program base budget structures are five major programs: strategy, policy and management, health promotion, family health, social welfare and disease control.
According to him, achievements during the last six months (Jan. –Jun. 2017) to mark their success in malaria control, a malaria visibility event was organized and national and international partners were invited; indoor residual spraying strategy for malaria control implemented in CRR and URR; the national TB treatment success rate of 87% surpassed the global target of 85%; 94% of the population benefitted from mosquito nets distributed in 2017; Kabilo Baama Initiative rolled out from 7 to 11 communities and currently 18 communities are benefiting from the initiative in Kiang East.
He stated that the priority policy areas which include safeguard the welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable population, protect vulnerable populations from transitory shocks; promote the livelihoods and incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable economically active populations; reduce people’s exposure to social risks and vulnerabilities including discrimination and exclusion; strengthen leadership, governance and social protection systems in order to design and deliver effective and efficient programmes.
PS Barry highlighted the challenges such as high attrition rate of nurses and doctors; inadequate basic equipment, consumables and other logistics; insufficient drugs and other medical supplies; limited human, financial and material resources to meet the growing demand for health and social welfare services at national, regional and community levels; inadequate office space for MoHSW staff; inadequate and poor health infrastructure.
He recommended improvement of health delivery administration, develop and implement incentive packages to retain and attract staff particularly in the rural part of the country, provision of adequate resources for the procurement of drugs, equipment and other medical supplies, build office space for MoHSW staff renting, build and refurbish dilapidated health infrastructure, increase access to specialized health care; and for sustainable health financing mechanism, there is need to consider a national health insurance scheme.
The MoHSW staff also gave important contributions in each of their fields of specialization.