December 1, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Residents of Bonthe Sherbro Island and other riverine communities could be in for a long suffering as the only sea ambulance has broken down.
The island had been without a sea ambulance for decades until persistent media reports forced the Bonthe District Health Management Team (DHMT), through the Integrated Health Project Administration Unit (IHPAU) and with support from the Reproductive and Child Health Project-Phase II to procure one.
“The purpose of the ambulance boat was to improve the DHMT’s coverage and timely response to the medical needs of pregnant women, lactating mothers, children under five as well as others in hard- to -reach communities within the district. Four people identified by the DHMT were trained in the operations of the ambulance boat,” said Joe Layemin Sandi, Mayor of Bonthe Municipal Council.
He revealed that in a letter dated 10 September, 2016, the Medical Superintendent of the Bonthe Municipal Hospital, Dr. Abdul-Hameed Gamanga, reported that the sea ambulance had had some challenge before it started operations.
“Dr. Gamanga claimed that since the sea ambulance was commissioned in Mattru by a team comprising a World Bank Representative, IHPAU and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, no organisation had come forward to promise any further support to the running of the boat. So, he did not know who to talk to for maintenance,” he explained.
He continued that Dr. Gamanga had disclosed in the letter that there were two sets of trainers who trained crew members on how to operate the boat, claiming that the first training took place on the mainland of Mattru Jong.
According to him, Dr. Gamanga reported that the sea ambulance was taken to the Island by graduates of the first training team and that upon arriving on the Island, they realised that the fan belt was ripped off.
He said another team of trainers, who were on the Island to train crew members, informed him that they had detected a problem on the boat worse than initially feared.
“Since then the boat has been anchored on the Island. The problem of the sea ambulance has affected the movement of patients, especially women and children that may want to seek medical treatment at the hospital. The hospital is the only health facility in the riverine communities,” he said.
He called on the government and concerned groups to help fix the sea ambulance before they start losing lives.