It is very common to hear/read scathing criticisms of our healthcare delivery system in the newspapers or on social media but hardly do we see anyone go into detail on how much efforts are being actually made at the country’s main referral hospital ie the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. I admit that I was guilty of this somewhat unfair criticism as I have also written – on many occasions – pointing out certain lapses here and there, as I saw them at the time.
This write-up does not seek to give the system a clean bill of health or to say all criticisms are not justified; but it is necessary to also identify and hail the great efforts being made by our heath personnel sometimes under extremely difficult circumstances. It is important to recognize efforts so as to encourage the individuals to do more and the indolent ones to learn from them.
In May of this year, I was involved in a road accident which left me with some serious injuries. I was rushed to Serekunda Hospital in Kanifing from where I was referred to Ndembaan Clinic, an Annex of Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital where the emergency service is located. Here, the services are below standard – in their defense, it is overwhelmed due to the fact that it is the only one in the entire country.
On that day in May, I was there for about five hours without being given any treatment apart from the aligning of my fractured hand and putting a back sling for me. No medication or painkiller or anything for that matter. I suffered incredible pain throughout my stay there at Ndembaan. At night, there was no bed and I had to sit on a chair and later a mattress on the floor. That is how I spent the night there. One can hardly blame the staff at Ndembaan though as they do not have the necessary equipment and resources to do their work. Government, through the Ministry of Health, should certainly pay attention to Ndembaan and provide the staff with what they need to serve the people of the country.
Due to the severity of my injuries, some of my family and friends thought that our best option was to go to Dakar as I needed a surgery to fix some very serious issues on my jaw and nose. As this discussion was going on, someone advised that the EFSTH now has a very good Maxillofacial Team that is second to none. Well, we decided to give it a try and see. I am pleased to say that we did not regret it.
Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised by the reception we received when we went to the Polyclinic where this team operates from. The professionalism I observed there is beyond any standards hitherto known here. The doctors and nurses spoke to me politely yet clearly explaining everything they were doing or going to do and why it was needed. They advised me on how to go about with their treatment and always gave me the chance to ask questions and make complaints if I needed to.
During my stay at the EFSTH, I also learnt of a few very promising things going on there. One was that unlike what used to obtain – as far as I knew – the pharmacy had almost all the drugs that patients needed and if the doctors prescribed any drugs, one usually found that at the hospital pharmacy. In the past, patients used to complain that whenever drugs were prescribed, they would not be found available at the hospital pharmacy and one needed to go to the private pharmacies to buy them. That is no longer the case.
Furthermore, it came to my attention that the staff had a page where they post any issues so as to have an effective way of monitoring and addressing them as they occur. I am not sure whether the credit for this goes to the new Chief Medical Director or some other top-level manager, the fact remains that it is quite innovative and useful.
I would be an ingrate if I do not mention that the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Ammar Al Jafari, who took it upon himself to visit me twice, assuring me that he was personally monitoring my situation and will be on hand for my surgery… Talk about leading by example!
As expected, my surgery went well and thank God, I am recuperating well here in The Gambia having enjoyed excellent care from our healthcare workers. I am particularly proud because many of the nurses and doctors who treated me were once my students at Nusrat Senior Secondary School. The article will be too long if I were to name all of them but, you know yourselves, I thank you all wholeheartedly.
Of course, this write-up does not mean that everything at EFSTH is perfect. There are a few things that can be improved upon. For instance, I observed that sometimes there is a little lack of coordination between Ndembaan and the main hospital in Banjul when it comes to referrals. On occasion, a patient would be brought and the nurses on duty would not be aware, leading to a delay in the admission of the patient. This can frustrate the escort and is certainly not helpful to the patient and the nurses.
If these little issues are resolved, then it will go a long way in making the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital a safe haven for the sick and their relatives, in other words, the Gambian people.