By Mohamed T. Massaquoi
Health workers in Pujehun have warned of a high risk to pregnant women in the Makpele and Sorogbeima chiefdoms because of the delay in the arrival of referral cases due to the difficulty in accessing the maternity hospital in the town.
The two chiefdoms are separated from the district headquarters by the Moa River. The only ferry has been grounded due to the high tide and the only outboard engine boat used for night referrals has been destroyed by angry motorbike transport riders after it capsized leaving their priced assets stuck on the riverbed.
“We are expecting a big impact on the referral system, since we cannot cross patients anymore during the night” Dorothee Fransesca, an Italian Doctor attached to the maternity hospital in Pujehun, told Politico.
She said the ill-fated boat was the only means of bringing patients across from the two chiefdoms, accounted for a third of the pregnant women her hospital cares for.
Sources say the boat was overloaded and capsized last week with seven people and four motor bikes on board. A Liberian woman is still said to be missing.
The bike riders, among those rescued, were angry at the loss of their priced assets and used axes to destroy the boat in anger.
So at present there is no way of transporting patients at night because the ferry that does so plies the route only during the day.
The ill-fated boat and an ambulance were donated to the Pujehun district council during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, by the Italian doctors directly managing the only maternity hospital in the district. The boat was only set to transport pregnant women and other seriously sick people for prompt medical attention.
A civil society activist working for Health for All Coalition Sualiho Koroma told Politico that “the boat was overloaded by its operators. He said the heavy rains meant the river was choppy and the boat capsized.
He referred to the reaction of the bike riders as “a disappointment” and called on the district council and the district disaster management committee to immediately intervene.
The chairman of the Pujehun District Council, Sheik Suhibu Sowa attributed the boat accident to “the carelessness of the successive government” for not fixing a bridge at the Moa crossing point dating back to “when some of us were children and every year we experienced the same incident”.
He said he would rather the bridge at Moala had been built before the one at Ngondama in the Bo district which he said already existed. He said he could not visit the scene because of the high tide and the fact that there was no other means of crossing with the boat damaged.
He lamented over the fact there was no way of getting patients from that end to access health facilities in the district headquarters. “But as a council we have made some arrangement with the Kenema DHMT to be accommodating our patients from that part of the district” he said. That route is however a terrible terrain that takes several hours and costs a lot more.
He said he had summoned a meeting with the Paramount Chiefs and other district authorities to try to address the situation with immediate effect.
When asked who would be responsible for taking patients to Kenema, he said the Italian doctors had always shouldered the financial aspect of getting patients from that end, something he said he expected to continue.
courtesy of Politico Online 16 July 2018