By Muhammed Sailu Bah
Foroyaa has received a complaint letter from a staff of one of the major public hospitals highlighting shortages of basic medical materials and equipment that hinder their work as well as other issues facing the workers at these facilities.
The complainant is claiming that the hospitals do not have such basic materials as syringe needles, urinary catheters, urine bags, nasal gastric tubes plasters, bandages, cotton, oxygen orthopedic beds, oxytocic drugs, among others.
He also complained about low salaries and the small allowances that are not paid to workers on time and which he said are disincentives for the difficult and often risky job t they do in saving lives.
“The non-formally trained workers are paid a monthly allowance of D300 while the formally trained received D600 monthly but these allowances are often not paid on time. We sometimes wait for two months before receiving our monthly allowance,” he claimed.
He explained that as a family head this allowance together with his small salary barely lasts for a week,” he noted.
He also cited the inadequate facilities for nurses in the hospital, such as rooms for changing clothes and eating and also toilets for nurses, adding that in some cases the workers have to share toilets with patients and which has some health risks.
The complainant noted that the work is hectic or physically demanding as one nurse has to attend to between 12 and 24 patients every day.
He noted the blame that some officials often leveled at them especially during the countrywide tours conducted by the president of the republic which fail to consider their plight as well as the lack of incentives and work facilities.
When this reporter visited the Serrekunda General Hospital to raise these complaints with the concern officials, Mr. Alieu Badjie, the hospital Public Relation Officer, dismissed the claims and said they do not represent the facts on the ground.
Mr. Badjie said the only challenge they are facing at the hospital now is the nurses having to attend to many patients. He said there are more patients than nurses and that this is a global phenomenon.
According to him, the hospital has very good and separate toilet facilities for both the staff and patients.
He took this reporter around to some of the toilet facilities to show that they are in good conditions.
The hospital PRO also said the materials and equipment that are said to be in short supply are available and adequate.
He disagreed with the claim of poor allowances and delays in its payments.
Mr. Momodou Lamin Jammeh, the PRO of the Edward Francis Small Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul, said the medical materials and equipment are consumables which are used every day. He said they get their supplies from the Central Medical Store on a weekly basis but sometimes they got finished if the demand is higher than the supply.
On the workload on staff, he said they operate three shifts for morning, afternoon and night every day based on a work roster. He added that they have adequate staff at the hospital.
On the issue of the late payment of allowances, the EFSTH PRO said they prioritise and only pay nurses their allowances after the salaries are paid, arguing that allowances are for few workers while salaries are for all the members.
“We cannot pay allowances without paying salaries first,” said PRO Jammeh.
He said for the allowances, the nursing officers are paid D1000, while nurses receive D600 and nurse attendants D300.
On the issue of patients having to resort to private pharmacies to buy the drugs prescribed for them at the hospital, the PRO said the Gambia is a developing country and as such cannot provide all the drugs to all the patients but that they have all the essential drugs available.
However, one of the lab attendants at the EFST Hospital in Banjul confirmed to this reporter that some essential equipment are lacking in the hospital. The source cited the FBC Machine and Parasite Reading Machine are not presently working and thus making their work very difficult.