By Alieu Ceesay

Information Minister Demba A. Jawo, has said that the Health Minister Saffie Lowe Ceesay has clarified that the statements attributed to her in recent newspaper reports were not accurate.

Jawo, who also doubles as the Government’s Spokesperson was speaking during his quarterly press conference on Wednesday at the ministry’s hall.

Minister Jawo said: “She [Health Minister] however confirmed saying at the press conference organized by the WACS that the Health Ministry is facing a pilfering of Medical items that include drugs and that it is her responsibility to seek measures to address the access system so that such items do not find their way to private pharmacies and other private health facilities.

“The Health Minister has however expressed understanding of the quick reaction of the medical profession and would like to reiterate that she never attributed the pilfering to the medical doctors,” the Communication Minister told the press.

The Association of Resident Doctors-The Gambia (GARD) on Tuesday demanded for the resignation of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Saffie Lowe Ceesay within 48 hours.

This is in relation to a publication made by the Standard Newspaper captioned ‘Corruption hindering health sector’ published on February 28, 2018.

The paper reported that the minister revealed that efforts in developing The Gambia’s health sector are held back by corrupt and unpatriotic doctors.

“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 which the resources that we have. I am very sure of what I am saying because I was the PS,” she was quoted by the paper during a press conference.

GARD is also demanding that the Minister retracts her statement and apologize to the entire Medical and Health fraternity. The Association said if the demands are not met, they will resort to a sit down strike.

GARD is a representative body of all Resident Doctors with a current membership of 191 countrywide.

Delivering a statement on behalf GARD at the Conference Hall of the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul on Tuesday, Dr Ebrima Bah, President of GARD said: “We unreservedly condemn in the strongest possible terms, these defamatory remarks and find them very disappointing.”

He explains, “We understand, following subventions from the Ministry, whether adequate or not for a budget proposal, drugs are procured and stored at the Central Medical Stores from where distribution is done to the various government hospitals and other health facilities on a quarterly basis and sometimes on demand.

He said at the health facilities, drugs are entirely under the control of the Pharmacy head of department.

“Drugs are dispensed from pharmacies following a Medical doctor’s prescription per diagnosis made, either for out-patient cases or administration within the wards for in-patients depending on the treatment plan.”

“If the Minister does not understand these basics from budgeting, drug procurement down to dispensing, then it shows her incompetence at her job. Unless she is deliberately scapegoating, knowing where the problem truly lies,” he said before cheering crowd, chanting “she must go!!”

Dr Bah said, the doctors understand that The Gambia is a resource limited country adding that it is the responsibility of the Minister and her administration to prepare proper and comprehensive budget proposals for the health sector and to also ensure that a wise and transparent allocation is done in all health areas.

“However we expect inefficiency in such the Ministry is administratively challenged. Hence a total restructuring, with proper schemes and policies in place is required to rehabilitate our debilitating health system.”