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Makeni women, CSOs call for improved free healthcare delivery

By Victoria Saffa

Women’s and civil society organisations in Makeni have called on the government to improve free healthcare delivery in the district, especially in the only government hospital in the key northern city.

The call came after the fatal death of one Fatmata Conteh, who gave birth to triplets at the Makeni Government Hospital. The death of the woman and one of the triplets has incensed a large group of members of the public, who blame the unfortunate incident on lapses by free healthcare delivery at the hospital.

The free healthcare initiative was introduced in April 2010 as part of a radical intervention by government, with support from donor partners, to drastically reduce the rate of mortality among pregnant women and children, which is still among the highest in the world. The initiative has sanctioned that pregnant women, lactating mothers and under-five babies should be treated gratis at government run hospitals and clinic and provided with required drugs.

However, lapses and gaps in implementation, including an ailing health sector and graft, means women and babies continue to die, albeit not on the scale of previous magnitude.

Thus, according to one Isata Sesay, a civil servant in Makeni, the death of pregnant women is common in the hospital, almost on a daily basis, as the hospice lacks adequate drugs, while the blood bank is almost always depleted.

Alfred Turay, regional focal point for Health for All Coalition (HFAC), who monitors free healthcare drugs in the district, said the hospital has only two gynaecologists who attend to thousands of pregnant women who go to the hospital to access free healthcare.

Reports say both medicos were not on duty when the lady in question was in labour, and that all efforts to get them to rescue the women were futile.

Turay called on the government to redouble its effort in optimising the gains already made in the health sector.

Meanwhile, reports from Makeni indicate that the two resident gynaecologists at the hospital – Dr. Bah and Dr. Taqi – have been invited by the police in Makeni to make statements in relation to the demise of the woman who died whilst giving birth to triplets.