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Riders For Health contract still not renewed

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By Tabora Bojang

The Government has not renewed its contract with Riders For Health, the body that supplies, manages and operates ambulances and other fleets of transport for the Ministry of Health, despite assurances by Health Minister Samateh that the contract will be renewed before the end of March.

The RFH has been in contract with the government of The Gambia since 2002 with the contracts subjected to renewal every five years.

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The latest contract signed in 2018 expired since June last year but negotiations for a renewal are not yet finalized hampering ambulance services across most major public health facilities.

According to RFH sources, they have since September 2022 completed their side of the bargain and submitted its operations cost to the Ministry of Health.

In March this year, Health Minister Samateh appeared before the National Assembly  and when asked about the long delay in renewing the contract, he informed NAMs that his ministry is finalising talks for the renewal of the  contract  which he said  will hopefully be signed before the end of March. He also told NAMs the new contract will entail RFH to now manage all community ambulances.

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However, RFH country director Theresa Drammeh told The Standard yesterday that the contract is not yet signed. She further explained that since the expiration of the last five-year contract in June 2023, the ministry has been asking for periodic extensions which RFH agreed to.

She however stated that disbursements from the ministry under these extension schemes had not been sufficient.

“They are paying insufficiently and we are providing service according to how much they have given us.  They say they want to make sure sufficient funds are available before we sign the contract for them to be able to pay their monthly dues. So we trust that is what they are doing and we are waiting for them,” she said. She explained that though RFH is non-profit body, it needs funds to buy the cars, fuel and spare parts and also pay staff. “So if we are not paid, how are we going to keep those services running?” Director Drammeh said. 

According to her, the non-renewal of the contract has been hampering effective ambulance services. “You can see ambulances all over being grounded out there but we cannot work on them for now and we cannot purchase new ambulances because there is uncertainty over the contract,” she said.

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