Fear Looms As Doctors Down Tools

By Abdoulie John

Despite the clarification made by the government through Information Minister, at least 129 Gambian medical doctors went ahead with their planned 48-hour sit-down strike. The strike was a reaction to Health Minister’s comments that young doctors have been diverting drugs behind closed doors to set up private pharmacy. Doctors reacted with fury, describing the comments as both insulting and demeaning. They demanded an apology from Health Minister Saffie Lowe-Ceesay. She didn’t but her colleague minister Demba Jawo did with the aim of diffusing the bad blood atmosphere. Mr. Jawo said the comments “were not accurate.”

“We wish to express our disappointment and concern for the lack of leadership demonstrated by the Honourable Minister of Health & Social Welfare Saffie Lowe-Ceesay, during the recent West African College of Surgeons international conference,” a statement issued by the Medical and Dental Association of The Gambia and the Association of Resident Doctors reads.

Striking doctors’ move was preceded by an ultimatum that Minister Saffie Lowe-Ceesay should step down. They expressed concern about “the lack of responsible leadership, vision, and institutional inertia demonstrated by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare.”

As doctors embarked on strike, fears mounted among the population over possible delays and disruption of services at the public health facilities across the country. Fear and anxiety gripped patients, with those lined up for surgery fearing surgical cancellations.

“All doctors are around. I have not heard any complaints coming from a doctor or a patients,” Serrekunda Hospital Public Relations Officer Alieu Badjie told this reporter.

When asked whether there was any disruption in the functioning of the Gambia’s second-largest health facility, he said the hospital is functioning smoothly in spite of rumours of a threatened strike.

Inside Serekunda Hospital, there was no visible signs of major perturbations as the normal routine continues.

However, the situation took a different turn in Banjul where the strike seemed to have gained momentum.

Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital spokesperson said all resident doctors failed to report to work.

“To some extent, the strike has some impact, but the services are running.The senior doctors are all working,” Modou Lamin Jammeh told this reporter.

The striking doctors have vowed to take the issue to another level if authorities fail to accede to their demands…



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