Minister of Health, Austin Demby Breaks Silence on Issues Going on in The Ministry of Health

Minister of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) Dr Austin Demby has explained that the reason for the impasse in the ministry is because other officials refused to look at performance in making promotions, rather doing promotions based on friendship and other reasons.

Explaining to Awoko Newspaper, the minister said before he travelled to the United States in September he and his management team in the ministry agreed that the promotions should be shelved until his return as they will make the decisions based on resume and performance.

“To my greatest surprise the management team headed by the Chief Medical Officer went ahead and made the promotions without taking into cognizance the other Doctors working in the provinces that have been doing well. So on my return I told the Permanent Secretary to write to those that have been promoted to reverse the decisions until we do the right thing.”

He said he does not know most of them that have been promoted but believes that whosever will be given such promotion must deserve it by proving beyond all reasonable doubt that they have a good resume and that they have the vision to make changes in the positions they will hold.

The minister averred that, that was what they did for Connaught hospital that has brought positive change. He said that is what he believes in as he wants the management team to sit and agree that every position given out should be deserved by all.

“I am very much concerned about what went on because the District Medical Officers (DMOS) are doing great and I would want all of them to get the same opportunity as those in Freetown. They are doing very well in the Covid vaccination and would want them to compete for higher position if they meet the criteria. I don’t believe in giving out promotions due to friendship because the Ministry of Health must deliver and we must be able to curb corruption as that was what was happening in the past.”

Talking on the vaccination drive that is going on, Dr Demby said about 2% of the population is fully vaccinated and about 5% of the population has taken their first jab.

He said Western Area is not doing well compared to the Districts were thousands of Sierra Leoneans are being vaccinated on a daily basis.

He said in Pujehun, as part of what is the largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Sierra Leone, they recorded about 12,000 people being vaccinated in the last three weeks.

“The initiative, dubbed the “Accelerated Covid-19 Vaccination Campaign,” is being championed by the NGO FOCUS 1000, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other local and International partners. Launched on 25th September in the fishing community of Tombo in the Western Rural Area, the campaign is funded by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), in collaboration with Africa Epidemiology Network based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It’s part of an initiative of the African Union to increase uptake of Covid-19 vaccines in its member countries.”

Dr Austin Demby averred that Africa has vaccinated the same 2% of its population against Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization. And experts say this low vaccination coverage exposes the region to emerging new variants of the virus.

“Pujehun was given the task of vaccinating 5,000 people during the course of the 30-day campaign, but data from FOCUS1000 released last Friday via its weekly update shows that the southern district is among the top performing districts, having surpassed its target. Pujehun follows closely behind its neighbor Bo District, which has had 13, 232 jabs as of the same period. Despite in second place, Pujehun stands out because of its characteristic difficult geographical terrain, which the volunteers have to maneuver to reach the people.”

The agreement between FOCUS1000 and Africa CDC is they are expected to vaccinate at least 80,000. But the data show that as 21st October, 126,000 people from 18 years and above had been vaccinated nationwide.

Dr Austin Demby said they must intensify the campaign across the country so that more people will be vaccinated to meet the 40% before the end of the year.

He said the provinces are doing very well in getting more people vaccinated than the Western Area. Dr Demby said more needs to be done to get more people vaccinated to avert the fourth wave.

Speaking during an orientation meeting for the rolling out of Pfizer vaccine in the country on Friday, October 22, Abass Nabieu Jah, District Coordinator of FOCUS 1000, said that the one-month exercise which started in Pujehun on September 27th and is supposed to end today 26th October.

Mr Jah said he is optimistic that based on “encouraging signals” from the field, more than 200,000 will have received the vaccine by the end of the campaign nationwide. He lavishly applauded the District Health Management Team (DHMT) for its expertise, as well as the community mobilizers, whom he said were collectively the brain behind the “remarkable achievement.”

DMO Dr Ngegbai described the Pujehun team as “small but mighty,” noting that they have once again justified why the district is known beyond its borders for always doing wonders in terms of managing public health emergencies. He cited the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola Virus disease as another example of how collaboration between the DHMT and its partners helped in putting public health emergencies under control.

He commended the Community Mobilizers as they have done a lot to help the district succeed in this campaign. He said what is more encouraging in this campaign period is the fact that the team has succeeded in broadening the mindset of people towards the vaccine, which is why there is now an increased willingness of people to come forward and get vaccinated.

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