By Fatmata Jengbe
On Friday 3 July 2020 at Mattru Jong in the Bonthe District, Southern Sierra Leone, President Julius Maada Bio introduced a Mobile Training and Support (MOTS) digital learning platform while also unveiling the pilot distribution of laboratory equipment and uniforms for health workers in Bonthe.
He added that his Government is working closely with partners to use digital health platforms to accelerate steps towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 that sought to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages.
“My Government, through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s eHealth Coordination Hub, approached World Vision International to find innovative ways of supporting the remote training of healthcare workers. This technology could also help manage risk communications during public health emergencies and help reduce the high burden of disease, maternal, and child mortality rates through public health messaging.
“For us as a Government, we see use cases for training community health workers for community sensitizations on routine health care delivery and preventive health protocols and advisories during disease outbreaks. For maternal and child health, it can be used for reminding pregnant and lactating mothers about routine antenatal clinic visits and vaccinations,” he said.
The President emphasized that they were closely attentive to a key objective in the Universal Health Coverage goals as laid out by the World Health Organisation, which states that: “the quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving services.” He noted that that argument was easy to make because continuous education and training would augment the skills of healthcare professionals.
“Let us consider the overarching context for a moment. The 2019 Demographic and Health Survey reports that Sierra Leone recorded 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. In 2019, Sierra Leone recorded 717 deaths per 100,000 live births – a 38% improvement. Although the figures indicate that we have made significant progress, we could do better. The World Bank – Funded Service Delivery Indicators Survey of 2018 in Sierra Leone, indicated the need for skills upgrade for health workers.
“So we are here in Bonthe District to reaffirm and fulfil some of the commitments we made in our New Direction manifesto before my Government acceded to office two years ago. Within the service delivery matrix, we pledged to develop training infrastructure, provide trained tutors, and ensure that every healthcare facility had a minimum number of technical staff. We also promised to review and upgrade the training curriculum in existing health institutions for all levels of training in order to equip healthcare staff with the requisite skills to provide high-quality patient-centered care,” he said.
While urging the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to explore the possibility of offering State Registered Nurses and Midwifery level courses using this platform, he also noted that his initial impressions, from the presentation, were that the platform was flexible and allowed for updating and expanding content.
“If this is so, then advanced and refresher courses can be developed and offered for healthcare workers depending on their needs. The opportunity for localizing content and for audio-visual learning is also quite helpful. Healthcare workers need not travel away from their duty stations for days to attend valuable courses that will enhance their skills. Additionally, with the closure of the UBC Mattru School of Nursing and the moratorium on all SECHN training across the country, this platform could be just right for teaching refresher skills for nursing staff,” he said.
District Medical Officer in Bonthe, Dr Prince Masuba, said that with effective stakeholders’ engagement and continuous sensitization, they had been able to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in the district and assured that they would continue raising awareness as a way of protecting the lives of their people.
Country Director for World Vision Sierra Leone, James Chifwelu Nkemba, said that they were excited to be a partner to the government in providing quality healthcare services in the country, adding that they had also helped to introduce technology into the healthcare delivery system to reduce maternal mortality in the district.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, said that Bonthe District had a rich history of training nurses in the country. He noted that government would restart the training program and upgrade the training standards in Mattru Jong. He also said that the government would rehabilitate the historic hospital built and first operated by the United Brethren in Christ missionaries in the 1950s.