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MSF vs Kenema Gov’t Hospital:

Simmering friction over who controls facility

August 21, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi

The proposed ‘takeover’ of the Kenema Government Hospital by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has ignited friction between some concerned Kenema residents and the hospital management.

While some staff are supportive of the proposed takeover move, yet the management of the hospital has voiced optimism the deal will be in the interest of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, stating that it was unacceptable for MSF as a non-governmental organisation to take over management of the facility.

Though the proposal [for MSF to take over management of the hospital] has received the overwhelming support of Kenema residents, including some local authorities, the hospital management was of the view that a good number of hospital staff will lose their jobs should the takeover go as planned.

Speaking during a popular programme on Eastern Radio in Kenema yesterday, MSF Team Leader in Sierra Leone, Dr. Michael Ajago, said his organisation has got the resources to manage the hospital for the next 10 years, and that they have been working with Ministry of Health officials to ensure the deal was actualised.

He said their plan was to rehabilitate the hospital, and bring in drugs and experts to meet the health needs of the people of Kenema and beyond, adding that an assessment of the facility had been conducted at the height of the Ebola crisis and that they had noticed that the disease seriously affected the health sector.

Their intervention, he said, will be purely based on humanitarian grounds.

“We are here to work and partner with stakeholders to develop the health sector,” said Dr. Ajago. “We are not coming to send anybody out of job as has been rumoured by people but to work, collaborate, discuss and take decision together. We are going to work in line with government rules and regulations.”

However, Medical Superintendent at the Kenema Government Hospital, Dr. John Masuba, said they had been working with MSF closely but that they wouldn’t allow a foreign organisation to take full control of the management of the hospital.

“You know that nobody can do everything alone, so we have partnered with a lot of organisations, including MSF, to provide the services needed at the hospital. But our bone of contention is that we cannot allow them to take over the entire management of the hospital,” insisted Dr. Masuba.

Mayor of Kenema city, Joseph Samba Keifala, said the hospital was currently faced with huge challenges, especially with the dearth of medical practitioners, including doctors. Moreover, he said the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has a significant role to play in addressing the current impasse between the hospital management and MSF.

“We are not expecting MSF to organise a meeting with residents as to how they should take over the management of the hospital, because the institution is managed by the ministry [of Health]. The ministry has the responsibility to negotiate on behalf of the people, and I want the authorities to know that our people are suffering,” noted Mayor Keifala.

“The hospital lacks certain facilities including doctors, and this is a serious concern to us. I think MSF will bring the required facilities and expertise the hospital so badly needed.”

A civil society activist in Kenema, Patrick Adu, said they have been monitoring the situation and that there should be a common agreement so that the two parties could work together in the interest of the people.

“The issue of management should be very clear and government has to come out and make their position on the issue clear. Nobody will support MSF backing out of this part of the country,” said Mr. Adu.

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