Vice President Inaugurates 64th Annual Conference of West African College of Surgeons

By Foday Moriba Conteh

The Honourable Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh has on Monday 4th March, 2024 inaugurated the 64th Annual Conference and Scientific Meeting of the West African College of Surgeons on the theme: “Access to Safe and Affordable Surgical and Anaesthesia Care in West Africa”. The well-attended ceremony was held at the Bintumani Conference Centre on Aberdeen in Freetown.

The conference, which brought together surgeons and related professionals from the sub-region in order to facilitate scientific exchanges and the implementation of strategies and policies for the advancement of Surgery in West Africa commenced with a Pre-Press Conference held on Sunday March 3rd and is expected to run through Thursday, March 7th, 2024, at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown,

In his address, the Vice President extended a warm welcome to all participants on behalf of His Excellency, President Julius Maada Bio, whom he informed cannot attend because of an official trip overseas . Dr. Jalloh emphasized Sierra Leone’s stability and promising future, inviting attendees to experience the country’s renowned hospitality and vibrant culture.

Reflecting on the conference’s theme, “Access to Safe and Affordable Surgical Anaesthesia Care in West Africa,” Dr. Jalloh underscored the critical role of surgery in healthcare and its contribution to alleviating suffering and improving lives. He commended the West African College of Surgeons for its dedication to advancing surgical education and practice across the region.

Highlighting the importance of surgical care in achieving universal health coverage and economic prosperity, the Vice President emphasized the need for increased investment in surgery. He cited studies indicating the economic benefits of expanding surgical services in low and middle-income countries, urging policymakers to prioritize financing for surgical care.

Dr. Jalloh also outlined Sierra Leone’s progress in expanding access to surgical services, particularly in rural and underserved areas. He noted significant increases in surgical volume rates and reductions in maternal mortality, attributing these achievements to various initiatives, including the Free Health Care Initiative for Pregnant Women and investments in training healthcare professionals.

Despite these gains, Dr. Jalloh acknowledged the challenges ahead, particularly the high unmet surgical needs in Sierra Leone, which he deemed unacceptable. He reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to further expanding surgical access and improving the quality of services across both public and private sectors.

He expressed optimism about the future of surgical care in Sierra Leone, emphasizing the importance of regulation, quality assurance, and workforce remuneration in safeguarding the delivery of high-quality surgical services nationwide.

In his address, the Minister of Health, Dr. Austin Demby, highlighted the significance of the conference as a platform for collaboration, knowledge exchange and innovation in healthcare, particularly in surgery and science within the region. He commended the African colleagues, the Local Organizing Committee, the Ministry of Health, and other partners for their dedication in organizing the event.

He said the theme for the conference, “Access to Safe and Affordable Surgical and Anaesthesia Care in West Africa,” aligns with Sierra Leone’s commitment to improving healthcare services and emphasized the country’s strides in this regard, focusing on universal health coverage that ensures every Sierra Leonean has access to quality healthcare.

Despite challenges such as limited resources and skilled healthcare professionals, Sierra Leone remains committed to improving surgical services, according to the Minister who further outlined plans to engage in the implementation of the National Surgical Obstetric Anaesthesia Initiative to enhance access to surgical care nationwide.

“Investing in education, training programs, and research initiatives is crucial to improving surgical care in West Africa,” he said stressing the importance of collaboration across disciplines and borders to strengthen the healthcare system and improve population health.

The Minister ended thanking the West African College of Surgeons for convening the conference and expressed optimism that sharing knowledge and forging partnerships would drive progress in healthcare across the region.

On his part, Professor Ezeome Emmanuel, the President of the West African College of Surgeons extended gratitude to esteemed dignitaries including the President of Sierra Leone, represented by the Honorable Vice President, as well as Government officials, Members of Parliament, and representatives from diplomatic missions. He commended the resilience and progress of Sierra Leone since the country’s last conference, despite past challenges.

Acknowledging the warm hospitality of the Sierra Leonean people, Professor Emmanuel expressed appreciation for the extensive planning efforts and Government support that facilitated the conference’s success. He emphasized the importance of collaboration and partnership in driving advancements in surgical practice and healthcare delivery across West Africa.

Professor Emmanuel highlighted the significance of initiatives such as the pre-conference Surgical Outreach Program, which provided free surgical care to underserved areas of Sierra Leone.

As the conference progresses, participants are expected to engage in discussions and exchanges that are aimed at addressing key healthcare issues and advancing surgical practice across the region. The event is serving as a platform for fostering collaboration and innovation to enhance healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes in West Africa.

Representatives from members countries of the West African College of Surgeons including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria etc. also gave remarks at the ceremony.

As part of the event, an Honorary Grand Patron was conferred on the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Julius Maada Bio by Professor Ezeome Emmanuel, the President of the West African College of Surgeons. The conferment was handed over to the Honourable Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh who represented the President at the ceremony.


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