NAM says non-Gambians should not operate pharmacies

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By Omar Bah

Sainey Jawara, the National Assembly member for Lower Saloum, has advised the government to stop non-Gambians from operating pharmacies in the country as a strong response to the deaths of 70 children due to the Acute Kidney Injury, AKI.

Addressing the Assembly during the debate on the National Assembly Select Committee’s findings on the AKI, Honourable Jawara said: “There is no Gambian in India who establishes a pharmacy there but they come here and establish pharmacies and leave them like that. That is a failure on the side of the Ministry of Health and the Medicines Control Agency. A non-Gambian should not come here and establish a pharmacy.”

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He said the country just prepares policies and leaves them to collect dust.

“Who is mad to go and establish a pharmacy in India?” but they come here and establish pharmacies everywhere but most of them don’t even have certificates to prove that they are trained medical officers but when they come, we give them license in exchange for money. They are treating us as a dumping place. Honourable Speaker, that should not be,” he added. He said most of the children who died were children of farmers and poor Gambians. “None of our ministers or parliamentarians lost their children in this saga,” he said.

He rejected the findings and recommendations of the Assembly Health Committee and registered his disappointment over the ministry’s failure to build a testing lab as required by the Medicines Control Act.

The NAM for Busumbala, Muhammed Kanteh, said the Assembly should identify those who hold the greatest responsibility and hold them accountable for the deaths of the 70 children.

Honourable Kanteh said the government’s failure to build a laboratory as recommended by section 50 of the Medicines Control Act made them culpable. He said if those rules are flouted, the government should be held accountable of what had happened, adding that the government and Atlantic Pharmacy should be held accountable as primary duty bearers.

“But unfortunately, the committee’s report has only singled out Maiden Pharmaceutical of India to have been responsible for what had happened. Honourable Speaker, I don’t think we are fair because holistically, we should look at all the players. We have lost 70 children who could have been presidents or parliamentarians. They died because the primary duty bearers (government)could not protect them. It is unfortunate that they were born in a country whose medical delivery service is not at its best,” Honourable Kanteh lamented.   

The NAM for Foñi Kansala, Almamy Gibba, agreed with the Busumbala NAM that those who flouted the law should be held accountable.

“The National Assembly should leave no stone unturned to ensure that we get to the bottom of the matter and hold those responsible to account. Honourable Speaker, the government should accept responsibility for the deaths of the 70 children,” he added.

The NAM for Brikama North, Alagie S Darboe, said it would be considered a significant failure if the Assembly fails to ensure there is an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter.

He said the Minister of Health should apologise to Gambians for failing in his responsibility.

For his part, Omar Jammeh, the NAM for Jangjangbureh, challenged the Minister of Health to resign for failing the Gambian people.

“If 70 children were killed in any other country apart from the Gambia in connection to a substandard medicine, that country’s minister would have resigned,” he stated.