By Omar Bah
Patients have to pay about D5000 at private clinics to undergo a CT scanning, as the only scanner at the Serekunda General Hospital has been down since May.
The computerized tomography scan, also called CT, combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around human bodies and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside the body. Scanned images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.
“We are forced to pay D5000 for CT scanning at a private clinic in Abuko. This is crazy,” Lamin Ceesay, a patient escort at the SK hospital told The Standard.
Ceesay said he cannot understand how a hospital like Serekunda General hospital could be without a CT scanner for months.
A CT scanner can be as low as $65,000 for a refurbished one that produces only small images quickly while a larger and brand-new CT scanner can cost as high as $2.5 million.
A senior doctor at the Serekunda hospital, who begged for anonymity, also told The Standard: “I cannot imagine why the CT scanner has been down for 6 months. This is unacceptable – poor Gambians are paying D5000 in a private clinic for CT scanning that would have cost them only D2000 in a government hospital.”
The doctor said at least 10 patients come to the hospital everyday requiring CT scanning.
“And in most cases, half of these people don’t have the financial muscle to pay D5000 for the scanning. I have nothing against the hospital management but frankly, a hospital like Serekunda should not be without a CT scanner for this long. It is really devastating,” the anonymous doctor said.
When contacted for comments, the CEO, Kebba Manneh said the hospital understands the frustration of the patients and is doing everything to get the machine repaired. “We are aware that to have a CT scan in the private clinics is very expensive. The issue is that when the scanner had a problem, it was in the peak of Covid-19 pandemic. It was difficult because the machine was supplied by a Siemen company who had their regional engineers based in Senegal. So, it was difficult to get them during the peak of Covid-19 but we managed to get them in August when they came and did a review of the machine but they could not complete the diagnosis because there was a part they needed which they didn’t come with. So, they had to go back to Senegal and look for it,” he said.
Manneh said it was in October that they returned to do all the necessary diagnosis and then gave him a report.
“I used that report to request for quotations from the Siemen company which has been sent to me with the supporting documents which I should use to request for funds from the Ministry of Finance through the Ministry of Health. I have already made my request to the ministry of health who will now decide to either fund it or request funding from Finance,” he said.
Manneh said he has recommended for the government to buy a new machine because this one has outlived its lifespan.
He disclosed that the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital CT scanner is the only one currently operating in the public sector.