Gambia’s Minister of Health has apologized for corruption allegation remarks that sparked a sit-down strike by doctors at the country’s main referral hospital.
“I extend an apology to anyone who might have been offended by the statement,” said Saffie Lowe Ceesay. “That statement I made was not out of malice. On the contrary, it was made to turn around the negative image that the ministry is synonymous with.”
Ceesay said young doctors were stealing drugs from public health centers to stash in their private pharmacies and clinics, an accusation that most young medical graduates said was unfair and unfounded.
The local union backing the doctors demanded the minister steps aside, counter-accusing her of incompetence. But Ceesay, who served the country’s health sector as permanent secretary for the longest said she would get her ministry to open a new leave.
“The ministry will continue to work in earnest and in close collaboration with all the health personnel and ignore the undue distraction to put in place a desired drug accessibility system and better service delivery for the Gambian population who deserve better,” she said.
Her plea came after she failed to resign and doctors do not seem to have any plans to end the protest, a decision that may put further strains on the already short-staffed health centers.
Authorities said last week that medical services are still being delivered in a timely manner and has not been impacted to shut down hospitals. But some say the strike could start costing lives.
“I understand that relationships sometimes can become difficult and challenging. But I am just pleading that whatever situation we are facing today let us suspend all acts that could probably cause the loss of lives as a result of our decision,” said Dr. Cherno Omar Barry, the country’s health permanent secretary.
“I am appealing to the doctors to sit again, discuss and find a peaceful resolution out of this. I am very certain if we discuss we will come to a consensus.”