By Mohamed Massaquoi from Kono
Investigations have revealed that most Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) within Kono district in the eastern region of the country are without refrigerators and solar energy to preserve the drugs, vaccines and blood bank for lactating mothers, pregnant women and their children, a development that threatens to undermine the efficacy of free healthcare delivery in that part of the country.
An inspection of PHUs labour rooms in the villages visited indicate that facilities were either lacking or dysfunctional as women still deliver babies on wooden beds covered with blankets and other local materials.
According to nurse in charge of Senjekor village community health centre in Nimikoro chiefdom, Hawa Mansaray, because of the lack of refrigerator and electricity supply to ensure the safe keeping of the drugs and the provision of light to the health centre, patients who come to the centre for their children’s vaccination would most times return home disappointed, as the system might be down.
Section Chief of Wordu Town in Sandor Chiefdom, Fasuluku Tamba Karkamoe, said he most often sign for the free healthcare drugs when they are delivered to the community health centre in his town, but noted that the supply of the drugs are delayed at times.
He disclosed that electricity is one of the major challenges at the health centre, due to the absence of solar energy to supply electricity, while the sole refrigerator which used preserve the vaccines has broken down for a very long time, adding that “We do not have the means to repair these items and we were left with no option but to take the free healthcare drugs to Kayima town which is about seven (7) miles from the Wordu town health centre for safe keeping in a refrigerator.”
Similarly, in Tefeya community health centre in the same chiefdom, Nurse Mariama Koroma, disclosed that the PHU covers twenty-four communities in that section, and that she was deployed at the centre, drug supply had been timely, albeit cooling facility was a big challenge in the preservation of free healthcare drugs due to lack of refrigerators. Thus, free healthcare drugs and vaccines are stored in another village, Bangbema, some eight (8) miles away, for safe keeping.
Councilor Mohamed Kabbah of Ward 74 in Bumpeh town, Nimikoro Chiefdom, said in an interview that confusion arose as to the distinction between free healthcare and cost recovery drugs respectively, although sensitizations during community meetings have helped citizens to better understand the dichotomy between the two social service schemes.
The councilor, however, lamented that the Bumpeh community health centre is without a working refrigerator to ensure the safe storage of drugs, plus the non-availability of electricity, due to faulty solar panel connections. The issue, he said, had been discussed in council meetings, although nothing has been done yet to ameliorate the conditions.
Patrick Borbor, who happens to be the nurse in charge in Njagbwema Gorama community health centre, a difficult community to visit as a result of the terrible conditions of the roads, said the PHU lacks basic equipment, including a refrigerator, which broke down for over five years ago, despite the District Health Management Team trying on three occasions to repair it but to no avail.
While commenting on the issue, various councilors, including chairman of Health and Sanitation in Kono District Council, Councilor Sahr Mattia, in a meeting held at the Council’s offices, confirmed that the PHUs in that part of the district lack functional refrigerators and electricity.