President Koroma was speaking at the State Opening of the Fifth Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone on Thursday 15th December, 2016. President Koroma said on becoming President in 2007, he vowed to move this country forward, to transform its roads, improve electricity, invest more in education and health, and improve Sierra Leone’s reputation as a peace-loving, democratic and resilient nation.
Below is the President's statement on health
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, in my last address to this Honourable House, I committed my Government to maintain a zero Ebola infection rate and to strengthen our health care delivery system. With your partnership and the dedication of our gallant healthcare workers, we have been able to achieve these goals.
In recognition of their exemplary service in the fight against Ebola, my Government has absorbed into the payroll 500 nurses who volunteered their services during the response. Whilst no amount of compensation will make up for the irreparable loss to their families and the nation, my Government has begun the process of paying death benefits to the next-of-kins of the deceased health workers.
To date, payments have been made in respect of 103 deceased health workers. We have also extended the Free Health Care Initiative to our Ebola Virus survivors and a comprehensive package catering for their special healthcare needs has been provided.
Mr. Speaker, learning from the EVD outbreak, my Government is taking action to build a resilient health system that is well positioned to prevent, detect, and respond to any public health threat of either the same or of similar nature to Ebola. We have established two public health laboratories in the Western Area and one in each of the regional headquarter towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni.
These laboratories have full capabilities to test for viral haemorrhagic fevers including Ebola. One of these, in the Western Area, is fully equipped to test for the Zika virus.
An Emergency Operational Centre and a National Public Health Agency for capacity building have been established at Cockerill to coordinate field activities during outbreaks.
My Government has taken concrete steps to deal with the shortage of medical practitioners. Forty-three medical doctors, two radiographers and four laboratory scientists, from various African countries have been contracted, several of whom are already in-country for immediate deployment to district hospitals nationwide. Additionally, we have undertaken to sponsor more than 30 locally trained young doctors to pursue specialist courses in various fields.
At the same time, middle grade Community Health Officers are being trained in life-saving medical and surgical interventions to act as Physician Assistants where there are either no doctors or they are in short supply. A second paramedical school has also been opened in Makeni to complement the existing one in Bo that has served this country so well. These interventions will no doubt improve the doctor to patient ratio as well as translate to better health outcomes for our people.
Mr. Speaker, please permit me to commend both sides of this Honourable House for enacting the Teaching Hospital Complex Act and the Postgraduate Council of Health Specialties Act. With that bi-partisan support, we have paved the way for a revolution in medical education in this country. Preparations are underway for the construction of a five-hundred bed dedicated Teaching Hospital at Kerry Town. In order to address the space limitations in our hospitals nationwide and in the Western Area in particular, I have also commissioned, at Waterloo, Lumley, and Mountain Cut, the construction of three additional hospitals, each with a bed capacity of close to 100.
Mr. Speaker, we are at an advanced stage in the establishment of a cost-free National Ambulance Service which will prioritize highly vulnerable groups. The National Ambulance Service will also create employment for hundreds of volunteer nurses and for youths who will serve as drivers. My Government has further supported the establishment of a tracking system, the Maternal Deaths Surveillance and Response System, to investigate all maternal deaths, and take the necessary actions.
We have also installed 100 solar powered refrigerators to store vaccines and other medicines in hard-to-reach communities.We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria alongside our accelerated efforts to reduce teenage pregnancy and eliminate childhood malnutrition. With strong support from our health development partners, medical services for all of these conditions in all public facilities continue to be free of cost.