By Momodou Faal, Information Officer Ministry of Health
A three day review and Validation of the draft National Occupational Health and Safety Policy for Healthcare Workers in the Gambia supported by the University of Maryland kicked off on Tuesday at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Health, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Technical at the Ministry of Health Karamba Keita said a healthy workforce is vital for sustainable Social and economic development on a global, national and local level.
He pointed out that the main objective of the draft National occupational Health and Safety policy is not only to eliminate or reduce hazards and the incidence of work-related injuries fatalities and diseases, but also to promote the Positive development of factors in working environment which enhance the social, mental and physical well being of workers and society as a whole.
Mr. Keita said the emergence of highly infectious diseases such as COVID-19 has the tendency to increase the infections risk among health workers. He said according to World Health Organization (WHO), healthcare workers are known to be at higher risk of infections from blood borne, pathogens, air borne hazards and exposure to healthcare waste than the general population.
In 2015, WHO estimates that 257 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection. Similarly, in 2018 there were an estimated 10 million new incidents of TB cases worldwide. About 15 million people died of disease and poor healthcare waste management which also exposes healthcare workers and the community to infections and toxic effects that could result in diseases or injury.
Horoja Saine, Chief Matron at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, concurred that the review is long overdue but it will still help healthcare workers to adequately and effectively address the occupational and safety challenges at their various facilities.
Professor Melissa MacDiarmid of the University of Maryland in the United States thanked the Ministry of Health and Professor Ousman Nyan of the University of the Gambia for allowing them to support the country’s Healthy Ministry to come up with a National occupational Health and Safety policy. She said during their meeting with stakeholders in 2016 and 2018 the country came up with three priority areas that need support to develop such a policy this is the reason why they came back to support the validation of the policy