By Omar Bah
Momodou Sabally, a former head of The Gambia’s civil service has criticised the Ministry of Health’s recent statement on the acute kidney injury disease as “erroneous” because of its “obvious technical and grammatical flaws”.
The director of health services on Wednesday wrote to heads of hospitals and clinics instructing them to forthwith suspend dispensing paracetamol syrup.
In the memo, Dr Mustapha Bittaye informed: “With the ongoing investigation on the Acute Kidney Injury outbreak in the country, it is now concluded that the possible causes are E. coli and possibly toxicity from syrup paracetamol.”
But reacting to the memo in a write-up shared with The Standard, Sabally wrote: “If these errors were inconsequential, I would not have reacted but it is quite obvious that your public notice could actually cost Gambians millions of dalasis in terms of lost revenue and thousands of lives due to the misinformation contained in your very amateur and sloppy message.”
He said the ministry’s memo is purely speculative and the research they reference to is “clearly inclusive”.
“So, it is quite clear that your investigation regarding this matter is still on. To say that I am shocked would be an understatement. You know that your purported studies on this matter are still ongoing and yet you have been able to conclude that syrup paracetamol and E. coli are the causes of this disease. Now the question is: when you mention E. coli and paracetamol? Do you mean a cocktail of the two?
“Certainly, there is more than one brand and one importer of paracetamol. Which of the many is the suspected one making our children sick? One can infer that you have found paracetamol, a very common drug prescribed by almost all doctors, in your samples; but does correlation necessarily mean causality in your world?
“And now to the clearly laughable advice you give to the public: what in the word does this mean: crossing paracetamol tables? Clearly you wanted to say crushing paracetamol tablets: While errors in writing are normal, even casual bloggers on Facebook would proofread their posts, talk less of a director of health services writing about matters of life and death.”
“This kind of blunder,” Sabally added, “is completely reckless and totally inexcusable”.
“Why on earth would a professional medical practitioner make such blatant speculation on inconclusive research that can create panic in the country? And then go ahead to publish such a statement without proofreading it? You are surely endangering the lives of Gambian children and at the same time causing possible loss of revenue to players in the pharmaceutical market because of your sloppy public notice.”
Sabally alleged there are bad players in the market owing to negligence and complicity of the management of the Ministry of Health. “But there are clean operators whose businesses should not suffer because of your negligence. It is quite obvious to any casual observer that matters of such public health import ought to have been handled and communicated by the Directorate of Public Health Services and not your office,” he argued.