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Gov’t abandons £53.5m Kerry Town health facility

September22, 2016 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara

The Government of Sierra Leone has abandoned and neglected the £53,538,984 million worth health facility that was established by the British government during the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country.

Kerry town is located in the Western Rural Area, some 19 miles (40 km) to the capital Freetown. It was one of the biggest referral during the Ebola outbreak.
The hospital, which has 80-beds facility, was run by Save the Children and a British medical defense team to provide diagnosis and treatment to infected patients.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the country Ebola free last November, the government has left the former Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) to be intruded by thieves.

But the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Abubakarr Fofanah, said the ETC was not constructed as a permanent structure and that there was no immediate plan for the land or the facility to be transformed.

He added that the centre was handed over to the Ministry of Health by the British people without leaving any medical equipment, noting that after WHO declared the Country free of the virus, all ETCs in the country were de-commissioned.

“The British, who were running the facility, took everything away, except few Air Conditioners and solar lights. Not even a needle was left behind,” he said, adding “what was left was not beneficial to my ministry. It is like they borrowed us all the facilities they brought and took it back.

He said the Centre, located on 301 hectares of land, was initially planned to be used for University Teaching Hospital.

Meanwhile, our reporter visited the Centre last week and observed that only one unarmed security guard is deployed to guard the facility. One could hear the drop of a needle from a distance as the facility appeared to be like a ghost town.

Security Officer Ibrahim Kebie Kamara explained that on 15 March, 2016 twelve of them were sent to the Treatment Centre by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to protect the facility from thieves.

“We were assigned here to guard the Centre, the Air Conditioner, Milla Tanks and solar panels. We met some volunteers who had been working tirelessly with us, but have never been given a dime,” he said.

He said five out of the twelve security officers sent to the Centre had been retired by the ministry.

Kamara said the Police Officers, who were attached to the Centre since March, had deserted their duties.

Concord Times confirmed last week during a field visit to the Centre that only one Detective Police Constable, DPC 14935 Anthony Barnard, last showed up for duty on 5 June, 2016. It was also observed that only three police officers now report for duty at the Centre, but worked for only four days in a week.

The seemingly frustrated security officer said they were unarmed and vulnerable to thieves at night.

“We have made several complaints about thieves to the authorities and the police, but it appears all our reports have fallen on deaf ears,” Kamara said.
“When thieves came here recently and stole four of the Solar panels, we chased and retrieved the items from them. Later, we reported to the Tombo Police Division but no moves have been made to bring the culprit to book. Instead the police requested for money from us.”

He noted that they have requested for armed police personnel, healthcare service for their wellbeing, torchlight, protective gears for heavy down pour and storm, but stated that all their efforts have been abortive.

“We live in darkness with no torchlight to view the environment at night,” he stressed and admitted receiving five hundred thousand Leones as monthly salary from the Ministry of Health.

Asked as to why weeds now outgrow the facility, he said they have no tools to keep the environment clean.

“Four months ago, we were told that this place will be transformed into a hospital for the people of Kerry Town, MacDonald, Middle Town and environs, but up till now, there’s no sign of that,” he concluded.

Mohamed S. Kargbo, a volunteer security man, re-echoed they have been abandoned and neglected by the government. He bemoaned the fact that the authorities show no concern to their predicament.

“I have been relentlessly offering my services to the ministry, but I have not been recognised since January. I was brought here by the headman, Maiz Baw Kamara,” he said.

He added that the only reward he receives from the ministry is a carton of packet rice, which he said was irregularly supplied to him and his colleague Saidu Kamara, whom he said was seriously ill.

He called on government to fulfill their promise of giving him a pin-code.
Headman of Kerry town, Maiz Baw Kamara, said they were not comfortable with the treatment meted out to them by the government regarding the abandonment of the former Ebola Treatment Centre.

He stated that the edifice has laid in ruin since the British left, contrary to promises the government made to them prior to the construction of the Centre.

He said the volunteers were going through the worst nightmare in their lives, noting that they live in isolation.

When this development was drawn to the attention of British charity Save the Children International, which was charged with the responsibility to run the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre, Information and Communications Officer, Abdulai Bunduka said they handed over the Centre to the UK Department For International Development (DFID).

Bunduka added that, “what I gathered from management is that after running the Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Kerry Town, we handed back to DFID.  So if you need any information you should contact their office.”

DFID officials have denied the allegation made by the government that they carted away every equipment at the end of the virus outbreak.

They noted that if they had taken away equipment from the Centre, as alleged by the Minister of Health and Sanitation, there was no need for the Ministry to send security officers to guard the facility.

“It’s ridiculous to hear such from the Minister of Health of Sierra Leone,” said a DFID official who did not want to be named.

It would be recalled that when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency, Britain saw it necessary that Sierra Leone was at war with an unknown enemy.

The Kerry Town Ebola treatment Centre was created to bolster the treatment of patients and to halt the transmission of the virus from person-to-person.
Kerry Town, among other towns along the Peninsular, was chosen because of its geographical location, but there were pockets of protest prior to the construction of the Centre by natives of Kerry Town for fear of being infected by the virus at the time.

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