Doctors’ strike brings health system to its knees

Exceptional circumstances in Sierra Leone

The health system in Sierra Leone has been brought to its knees again. This seems to be a never ending story.

Already in 2003, Cap Anamur has started its work in this West African country that is among the poorest in the world. The aim was to create structures and to set up an efficient health system. Medical staff was trained, hospital sections were taken over, administrative processes in hospital wards were optimised, and vital materials as well as medicine were provided.

2014 saw the first epidemic of the Ebola virus. The already weak health system totally collapsed in large parts of the country. Hospitals had to be closed down due to lacking quarantine wards. Numerous doctors and members of the nursing staff became victims of the epidemic themselves. The Cap Anamur team was able to defy the lethal virus with a special admission and isolation ward as well as a shelter for Ebola orphans and children who had been in contact with Ebola. But much hard work still lay ahead of them after the Ebola outbreak because the health system had to be completely rebuilt again.

A hospital in Makeni, the large children’s hospital in the capital Freetown, hygiene and educational measures in the slums, a shelter for street children – in no other country, Cap Anamur currently has so many different projects as in Sierra Leone. Our local teams are active 24 hours a day not only to help the people in Sierra Leone in case of emergencies, but also to leave a positive mark in the long run and to set up a structure that will eventually enable us to confidently leave Sierra Leone to its own devices.

But this will take quite some time as the already precarious health system is in great danger again. Hard working conditions, small salaries, inadequate medicine and materials on the wards, long hours and hardly any or no support from the ministry are what doctors had to deal with on a day-to-day basis during the last years in Sierra Leone. Despite many talks with the responsible parties, nothing changed. The consequences of this are exhaustion, occupational accidents and nearly no young medics graduating from the universities.

Therefore, local doctors in Sierra Leone went on strike yesterday.

Our local teams who know about the catastrophic nature of the medical situation are able to understand this, but nevertheless have to face treating all patients alone now. A severe endurance test for everyone involved. Our CEO Dr. Werner Strahl has already addressed a letter to the Ministry of Health in which he calls for peaceful talks and a quick resolution to the controversy.

Our local teams hope for improved working conditions for doctors in Sierra Leone as well as for a quick resumption of work. Because the current situation is unbearable.