By Amie Sanneh
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Omar Sey, has said they are trying to get a team of health workers such as doctors, nurses and others to go to Sierra Leone for a stimulation exercise. These health officials, according to the Health Minister, will be there for a period of two to three weeks to understudy how things are handled so that when they come back they will serve as a task force for the country.
Health Minister Sey made these remarks in an interview with journalists on Sunday, 13 July 2014, at the end of his tour of health facilities in the rural area.
On the tour, the minister said this is part of his routine activities as they look at the impact when it comes to health services. He said since they cannot sit in Banjul and know what is happening everywhere that is why they have decided to visit hard to reach communities.
Minister Sey said in every country one must have a surveillance system in place and as for the Ministry of Health, they have a central coordinating team as well as surveillance team in every region. He said this is part of their program of activities, adding they do not wait for outbreaks.
The Health Minister said they have the epidemiology and the disease surveillance program which are responsible for and not necessarily Ebola but any diseases brought to their attention. This, he added, comes through a surveillance system, noting that there is a criterion which they use to track down until they come to a final diagnose.
Minister Sey stated that well before the outbreak of Ebola, they were prepared with the acquisition of a mobile laboratory so that when there is an outbreak of meningitis or any other disease, they do not have to take specimens to Banjul since the health personnel with the help of the mobile lab will go to the suspected site and do the test there.
The most important thing for Ebola, he said, is prevention. As a country, he noted that they have their surveillance system in place and create awareness by sensitising the governors, chiefs, alkalo, women groups in the communities on the precautions and preventive measures. “At the end of the day, it will foster family unity instead of disunity and will not stigmatize the person,” he said.
On the banning of flights from the Ebola endemic countries coming into the Gambia, the Minister explained that it was a temporary measure that was put in place to protect the citizenry.
He said they cannot compromise with two things and that is health threat and security threat to the citizenry. He explained that when Ebola came, there was a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation on the issue and they have seen how devastating it has been to the affected countries and that why they have to put a system in place which was part of the temporary measures taken; that now the ban has been lifted since they have contained themselves and made sure that they have put a system in place in the advent of the disease which they are not hoping for.
Health Minister Sey said all the Ebola suspected cases in the country all tested negative. He called on the public to be more vigilant and when they have visitors from the endemic areas like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, while welcoming them nicely, they should also observed them and if they discover any symptom of Ebola, the nearest health facility should be informed to take necessary steps.
At the end of his tour, the Health Minister visited the Immigration post at Brikama Ba to see how the surveillance is going on with regards to Ebola at that end. He expressed his satisfaction over the way and manner the officials are working.