The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha Wurie has acknowledged the fact that health facilities across the country are ill-equipped to provide quality health care services and it is the lack of the right equipment that is contributing to not only the unacceptably high maternal and child mortality rates in the country, but the rise in deaths associated with cancer.
The Minister was speaking on a symposium topic titled ‘Cancer Treatment in Sierra Leone: Challenges and Opportunities.’ at the 42nd annual general conference of the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA), recently held at the Miatta Conference hall in Freetown.
Dr. Alpha Wurie said the country is in dire need of improved patients’ access to quality and equitable cancer care, adding that to address the problem, his ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an American facility known as Varian for the construction and equipping of a radiotherapy unit in Sierra Leone.
According to Dr. Wurie, cancer-related deaths are highest among females and are mainly due to breast and cervical cancers, which he said accounts for 50.4 percent; representing more than half of the cancer burden among women globally.
The Minister took the opportunity to commend the First Lady, Madam Fatima Bio for taking the lead in raising awareness on the issue of cancer at the first anniversary of Merck Foundation in Dakar; saying her action has started yielding good dividend.
“I want to assure this gathering that my Ministry will continue to engage government and our development partners to identify and exploit opportunities to develop capacity for cancer response in Sierra Leone,” he noted.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified cancer as the second leading cause of deaths globally, accounting for 8.8 million deaths in 2015 alone and WHO and the International Agency Research on Cancer (IARC) estimate that almost 3,000 people develop cancer each year in Sierra Leone; with over 2000 dying of the ailment.
The Minister also noted that the healthcare services provided by healthcare providers and facilities should be of good quality and should meet the specific needs of the communities they serve.
“The quality of health services is critical to achieving effective universal health coverage in meeting health-related target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said. “But under the New Direction government of President Bio we hope to address those challenges.” He concluded.
In his opening statement, chairman of the ceremony and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Rev. Dr. Cannon TT Samba said the membership of SLMDA has improved gradually over the years.
He said the annual scientific conference this year would be of a difference since it is driven by the need to develop new innovation for quality healthcare delivery in the country.
Hinting on the theme for this year’s conference, ‘Quality Assurance In Healthcare Delivery,’ Dr. Samba said the Ministry was very much committed to ensuring that the quality of healthcare delivery is enhanced and made to ensure that the money spent on overseas medical treatment by Sierra Leoneans seeking medical care, is reduced to the lowest minimum.
“The theme for this year is not only in line with the objective of the ministry but it also resonates the global agenda for improving the population’s wellbeing,” he affirmed, noting that it was also in within the core mandate of the Ministry to provide universal health coverage; such that everybody everywhere can access the health services they need and when they need them.
Dr Samba also disclosed that in 2017 alone, government spent about Le. 32bn (Thirty-Two Billion Leones) for overseas medical care adding that the MoHS is now working on creating the enabling environment for all health workers to function properly in the discharge of their duties so that the situation will be improved.