I want to express my profound dismay at the truthful statement made by the Honorable Minister of Health and Social Welfare at a recent press conference was attacked and ridiculed by former staffers and the Gambia Resident Doctors Association to the extent of calling for Dr. Saffie Lowe to resign, classifying her remarks as defamatory.
At the said press conference, held after a meeting organised by the West African College of Surgeons at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Minister Lowe alleged that:
“When you talk about corruption in the health system we all know how it is…These young doctors that will just go and practice pharmaceutics, some of them have opened their own pharmacies with the resources that we have. I am very sure of what I am saying because I was the PS”.
The first fundamental question every honest person or citizen, especially the so-called young Doctors Association should have asked is: “Was there any truth in the honorable minister’s statements?”
I believe that Minister Lowe was 100 percent accurate because we have some young doctors in the country who engage in this corrupt practice. Therefore, those who attack her statements are doing so for selfish defense strategy to protect their professional association and credibility, but not for the supreme interest of the country’s healthcare system which has suffered from extensive corruption in the past 52 years. Minister Lowe’s statements regarding this extensive corruption among young Doctors is a well-known fact across the country. The fact of the matter is that The Gambia Resident Doctors Association should have taken responsibility to acknowledge corruption among their midst and defend that not everyone in their organization engage in such a nefarious and corrupt practice. The unscrupulous young doctors and other healthcare workers who engage in drugs diversion should be exposed. The diversion of public drug resources into private pharmaceutical drugstore businesses across the country is unpatriotic and betrayal of the oath of giving necessary and legal standard of care to patients and their families. The young Doctors Association should have also encouraged the Honorable Minister to express similar sentiments about nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers who also steal drugs from public hospitals. But the release of discouraging press statements will also deter any future efforts to eradicate corruption in our healthcare system. The whistle blower in the person of Saffie Lowe should have been applauded and appreciated by our medical community instead of asking for Minister’s resignation or threatening a sit-down strike.
What benefits are these young doctors going to gain from this sit-down strike other than denying patients their basic rights to access care and be cared for? Any sit-down strike will have detrimental effects on the already poor healthcare system in the country by the very doctors who pledged to serve and make improvement. It is a total nonsense to make any threat regarding the minister’s truthful statement. The Gambian public had already lacked confidence in our deteriorating healthcare system before the minister was brave enough to articulate the problem she had known first hand. The truthful statement should have started a honest conversation among healthcare professionals and various stakeholders in the country with a view to finding genuine and lasting solutions to eradicate corruption in our healthcare industry. Mrs Lowe’s statements puts majority of young doctors and some former staffers in a defensive mode.
This allegation corruption involving medical practitioners could also benefit the country if proper actions are taken. This could be done through formation of panel of investigators who will look into this allegation and come up with valuable measures to eradicate drug stealing or diversion from the healthcare system. The Gambia Resident Doctors Association should have also taken Minister Lowe’s allegation as a learning tool or an academic exercise by asking members to conduct a study or research on whether drug diversion by healthcare professionals is the main problem causing poor healthcare delivery. The result of this research can be implemented or used as evidence-based guideline in clinical and administrative decision making process to improve healthcare outcomes in the country. It will also promote the use of knowledge transformation of research findings into standard of care that could also be adopted by The Gambia’s medical school to teach healthcare practitioners about the problems of drugs diversion. This should have been their main focus instead of engaging in baseless defense of their professional integrity. The threat of sit-down strike was also designed to protect their public image instead of raising concern about patients who are the victims of corruption and lack of ethical medical practice. What a misplacement of priority manifested by the country’s highest educated folks!
The Minister should have pointed fingers at the entire healthcare system for extensive corruption instead of singling out young Doctors. This will be a fair assessment of common problem. However, dismissal of her truthful statement for defensive purposes and not taking responsibility is simply not in the public interest to eradicate corruption in the country. We must commend her for being honest and decisive to point out one sectoral problem among a list of unforgivable betrayal of public trust and utilization of our meager resources for selfish personal enrichment by unscrupulous healthcare professionals.
The fundamental objective observation is that no one wants to take responsibility and blame for corruption and dishonesty that are so prevalent in the country’s healthcare system. Every one came forward to defend their organization or individual profession while the truth is being dismissed and considered hateful or defamatory statements. This is the fundamental problem why truth is buried in the country and that many people are afraid to speak the truth. Some weeks ago, President Barrow made similar comments about people who are beating their chest today when in fact the same people were living in the capital city or its surroundings but majority refused to participate in peaceful protest during the trial of UDP executive members. Mr Barrow’s statement generated a firestorm across the political spectrum but the truth was that he was perfectly right in his statements.
As Gambians, we must understand that truth can be unpleasant sometimes. Before we achieve any meaningful progress we must each ask ourselves this very important question:
What is my contribution to current political, economic and healthcare problems?
If no one wants to accept blame, fault or bad behavior then how can we develop our country? Taking responsibility is virtually nonexistent in the public or civil service which is why everyone is blaming the former Dictator Yaya Jammeh except themselves. The officials of former regime knew at the time what they were doing was totally wrong and immoral but they carried on their illegal activities on the pretext that “they were following executive orders“. The Gambia Resident Doctors Association has done similar thing because they refused to acknowledge corruption among their members. They felt being the only healthcare professionals to be singled out and targeted for allegation of corruption even though there are corrupt doctors among their amidst. What are their efforts to eradicate corruption among their members since the allegation was made instead of being on defensive mode ? No efforts was made as we speak or indicated by their so called press conference. The only concern they expressed was lack of confidence in the Honorable Minister for speaking out against corruption in health department.
Displacement of blame and failure of not taking personal responsibility are fundamental problems which cause backwardness and lack of meaningful national development. Being defensive is a character which sometimes signifies refusal of taking responsibility and lack of acknowledgement of failure or truth. For The Gambia, our homeland, let justice guide our actions towards the common good.